Delays in Employment Tribunals cost the UK millions
British businesses are losing more than £2.6 million a week in lost time due to increasingly lengthy tribunal cases, employment law experts estimate.
Managers or business owners involved in tribunals are suffering more and more stress and distractions as employment tribunals take longer and longer to reach court during the recession.
Employment law experts ELAS estimate that the extra delays are equivalent to a six% increase on the time lost last year.
Their study comes after the Tribunals Service admitted seeing a sharp rise in the number of cases which fail to even have a single court hearing within 6 months of a complaint being accepted.
ELAS is now calling for the Tribunal Service to accelerate the rate at which cases are being heard in an attempt to protect the economy’s fledgling recovery.
Peter Mooney, ELAS’s head of consultancy, said:
“Anyone who has been through the employment tribunal process will know that an impending case takes up a lot of time in management, stress and anxiety for those involved.”
“This is even greater for small businesses where the stakes are seen as being much higher.”
“The fact that the Tribunal Service is failing to keep up with the rise in cases caused by the recession means that more and more small and medium sized businesses are being forced to wait for months on end before their case is heard.”
“Our conservative estimate puts the cost of these delays at more than £2.6million a week – which is clearly unacceptable given that it doesn’t take a genius to see that demand will go up during a recession.”
Mr Mooney’s comments came after figures released by the Tribunals Service showed a huge 56% leap in the number of cases accepted during 2008/09, compared with the same period the previous year.
Most of the rise could be attributed to a jump in the number of multiple cases – cases brought by more than one employee, often pursued with the help of trade union support.
The figures also showed that not only were there currently 400,000 cases left, stuck in the system, due in part to a fall in the number of cases in which the first hearing took place within 26 weeks.
Just 65% of cases now reach a tribunal court within 6 months, compared with 74% the previous year.
Mr Mooney stressed that he was not defending businesses who justifiably end up defending employment tribunals, but said that businesses deserved to have their cases heard quickly so as to avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety.
“It is no surprise that in a recession, the number of cases accepted by the Tribunals Service goes up.”
“But even though the Service is disposing of more cases than ever before, it is still not keeping up with what was an entirely predictable surge in demand.”
“Given the stress and anxiety caused to business owners by facing a tribunal, we believe the extra delays alone are costing British SMEs around £136,000 a week.”
“That’s £136,000 in wasted time which could be better spent driving the fledgling recovery and producing a stronger economy for everyone.”