The number of employment disputes ending up at employment tribunals has risen by 17 per cent over the past year, according to figures from the Employment Tribunals Service.
In the year to April 2004, the number of cases rose to 115,042 compared with 98, 617 in 2003, with the majority of cases for unfair dismissal and deduction of wages.
The number of sex discrimination cases increased by 76 per cent from 8,128 to 14,284, but the of the increase was accounted for by 7,000 claims around a dispute over the dress code for workers in jobcentres.
Tellingly, more than a third of cases were settled through the intervention of the conciliation service Acas and a further third were withdrawn before reaching a tribunal. Only 14 per cent (one in seven) of cases was ultimately successful and 10 per cent were unsuccessful.
But with huge payouts for discrimination cases hitting the headlines weekly and specialist lawyers become more proactive in pushing people to claim for compensation, it seems inevitable that the number of cases – both legitimate and speculative – will only rise.
Last December saw the introduction of legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or religious belief and the figure show that 52 cases have already been brought as a result.
As Mike Burd, employment partner with City solicitors Lewis Silkin, told the Evening Standard newspaper: “These numbers are nothing compared to what they will be.”