Latest Employment Tribunal statistics highlight downward trend in number of claims and highest awards in discrimination claims…
The Ministry of Justice has recently published its annual Employment Tribunal (ET) and Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) statistics for the period 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012. This year’s statistics show that the number of ET claims being brought overall is down from 218,100 to 186,300, representing a 15% decline from 2010/11.
Of these claims, unfair dismissal claims have decreased from 47,900 to 46,300, age discrimination claims from 6,800 to 3,700, and sex discrimination claims from 18,300 to 10,800. Interestingly, the statistics also show that the highest compensatory awards were made in respect of discrimination claims, with the average award for age discrimination claims being double that for unfair dismissal.
Recent government proposals, such as the introduction of fees for claimants, compulsory early ACAS conciliation, and steps to make it easier to enter into ‘settlement agreements’, look set to reduce the overall number of claims still further. In addition, it is reasonable to predict that the relatively slight downward trend in the number of unfair dismissal claims will continue in light of the increase in the qualifying period for bringing an unfair dismissal claim from one to two years.
However, perhaps of most surprise is this year’s decline in the number of age discrimination claims. This may be due to it being too early to feel the full impact of the abolition of the default retirement age. It may be that further down the line this, coupled with new barriers for bringing unfair dismissal claims and the potential for larger compensatory awards, results in an upward trend in respect of age discrimination claims, and discrimination claims generally.
In any event, employers should be aware of the fact that compensation for age discrimination claims is uncapped and generous compensation can be awarded to a claimant who remains fit for work but may be unlikely to secure another job due to his or her age. Therefore, dismissals of older employees should still be approached with great care.