The annual statistics for the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal tribunal for April 2010 to March 2011 have recently been published.
The overall statistics show an 8% fall in the number of claims received by tribunals and a 9% rise in the number of disposals in the Employment Tribunal.
Interestingly, the numbers of unfair dismissal and redundancy claims have fallen slightly which could perhaps have been the result of the improving economic climate during the period covered by the figures.
However, claims under the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 have nearly tripled. This is likely to have been caused by an increase in the amount of part-time workers employed, which itself may have been brought about by cost saving measures adopted by employers over the last couple of years.
Part-time workers are generally entitled to equality of terms with full-time workers under the pro-rata principle. Also, they should not be treated less favourably than full-time workers in relation to issues such as redundancy selection, promotion and access to benefits.
Perhaps the most striking statistic, however, is the dramatic rise in age discrimination claims by 32%, which can largely be explained by the uncertainty that has surrounded this area of law over the last year or two. We expect to see further cases on the application of the soon to be defunct default retirement age, after which there will likely be a rich seam of new cases on employer-justified retirement ages.
Additionally, the median award in respect of age discrimination claims is also the highest of all discrimination strands, standing at 12,697, compared to £5,000 - £6,000 in most other strands. This may well be due to employment tribunals making higher loss of earnings awards to older employees who may be seen as less likely to secure other employment.
The sharp rise in age discrimination claims has not been reflected in other discrimination strands, where most have seen a drop in claims raised in 2010/2011.
While this recent year has seen a drop in the amount of overall claims in the tribunal service, it must be put into context as the previous reporting year had seen a rise in claims of 56%. In this context it should also be noted that the recent statistics still represent an increase of 44% from 2008/2009 levels.
With 2011/12 looking like a more difficult year from an economic perspective, it would not be surprising if the next set of statistics show a rise in claims.