Tribunal cases fall by a quarter


The number of grievance cases taken to Britain's employment tribunals fell by a quarter last year, according to official figures.

According to the Employment Tribunals Service, only 86,181 cases were brought in 2004 compared with 115,042 in the previous year

The fall was largely due to fewer multiple cases being brought and the effects of new Dispute Resolution Regulations intended to designed to deter frivolous claims.

The Regulations, which came into force in October 2004, mean that all employers and employees must follow a minimum three-step disciplinary and grievance procedure in the event of a workplace dispute.

Sex discrimination cases fell from 14,284 to 11,726, although this was largely because the figures for 2003 were skewed by more than 7,000 cases stemming from a single dispute over the dress code for workers in jobcentres.

John Cridland, deputy director-general of employers group the CBI said: "The new statutory discipline and grievance procedures have had a positive effect in ensuring employees raise grievance with their employer before going to tribunal, giving the opportunity to resolve the dispute at the workplace.

"However, claims are now likely to take longer to reach tribunal while these procedures are followed, so the final figures are therefore unpredictable."

Employment lawyers agree, pointing out that the number of cases has risen and fallen over the years but that the overall number of cases has increased by more than half since 1998.

The figures also reveal that a third of cases were settled through the conciliation service, Acas, before reaching a tribunal hearing but that a further third were withdrawn before being heard, a figure that employers believe is evidence of the growing number of 'have a go' cases brought against them.

Last year, a survey by employment law firm Peninsula found that almost nine out of ten people (85 per cent) said that they would be prepared to lie if it meant winning a case against their employer, while according to a CBI survey, almost seven out of ten firms believe the number of "weak and vexatious" tribunal claims has increased over recent years.

But research carried out in June suggest that employers may be fuelling the compensation culture by settling tribunals claims before they reach court, fearing massive legal costs and threats to their reputation.