Working Theory

by Michael Reed


I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.


michael at


Remember those vexing claimants?

12 June 2014

One of the justifications put forward for introducing fees into the employment tribunal has been that it would discourage weak claims.

This is a fairly easy hypothesis to test. By definition weak claims are less likely to win than strong claims. If fees reduce the number of weak claims in the system, the employees left should win more often. Alternatively, more strong claims might encourage employers to settle, so the rate of settlement could go up.

The tribunal statistics include information on tribunal outcome, so we will be able to monitor any change.

It’s still a little early to see the full impact, because cases take time to work through the system. But I’d expect to see the first indications in this tranche of statistics. They cover a period between 22 weeks and 34 weeks from the introduction of fees. Quite a lot of unfair dismissal claims brought after fees came in should have been resolved in that time-period.1 And unfair dismissal should be a good early indicator for how things will go in the longer claims, such as discrimination.

In 2011/12 – when no claims involved paying a fee – unfair dismissal outcomes were:

In Jan-Mar 2014 – when at least some claims will have paid a fee the outcomes were:

In other words, the introduction of fees has made no significant change to the outcome of unfair dismissal cases.

I think this confirms what we all suspected, that the introduction of fees would discourage claims generally, but make no real impact on the strength of cases brought.

  1. The tribunal statistics purport to include information about how quickly unfair dismissal claims are resolved. But since they claim that 50% are resolved inside 52 weeks; yet also that 75% are resolved within 48 weeks, I’m regarding them as unreliable. 

  2. Including default judgments. 

  3. Including strike-outs at a preliminary hearing or on paper. 

  4. Often, but not always, withdrawals indicate a non-Acas settlement. 

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