News Round Up

Tribunal Statistics

The Ministry of Justice has published its tribunal statistics for April to June 2018. It will come as no surprise to many employment law practitioners (and probably few employers) that the number of single claims lodged were 165% higher than the corresponding period last year. Tribunal fees were abolished in July 2017, so this is a reliable figure as April to June 2017 was the last full quarter when fees were in force. We can therefore say with some certainty that there was a direct correlation between the tribunal fees and the reduction in the number of claims lodged.

The number of single claims outstanding rose by 130% between April and June 2018 compared with the same quarter last year. HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is still suffering from the staffing cuts made when claims reduced, resulting in claims currently being listed for hearings (even preliminary hearings) up to 12 months after issue. HMCTS is in the process of recruiting more employment judges, which will help reduce the backlog in the medium to longer term.

For those who like to consider average awards made by employment tribunals, disability discrimination cases had the largest average award (£30,700) and religious discrimination claims had the lowest average award (£5,100), with the average award for unfair dismissal awards being £15,007.

Parental Bereavement Leave

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 has received Royal Assent and is likely to come fully into force in April 2020. It provides a right to two weeks of time away from work for those employees who have lost a child under 18. The detail will appear in supporting regulations (not yet published) and will contain, amongst other things, information of how much remuneration will be payable during the leave.

Mental Health at Work

Mental ill health and wellbeing are never far from the headlines at the moment. Mental health conditions significantly impact on employee wellbeing and can be a cause of long-term absence from work. However some employers, while seeing mental health issues as a priority, are unable to support employees suffering from mental health conditions due to a lack of knowledge and training.

The CIPD has collaborated with mental health charity MIND to revise its People Managers’ Guide to Mental Health, which offers broad guidance and practical advice to improve support for staff experiencing stress or dealing with mental health issues. The guide covers everything from good recruitment practice, prevention and early intervention on mental health issues to encouraging colleagues to talk and support each other to return and thrive at work.

HRH Prince William, a well-known advocate of mental health charities, recently attended an event in Bristol to unveil a new online gateway to resources, training and information on mental health issues at work. The gateway, known as Mental Health at Work, is intended to beat the stigma surrounding mental health issues and change the approach to these issues in the workplace. The creation of this resource - funded by the Royal Foundation, Heads Together and MIND – follows a survey by MIND which revealed that 48% of all employees are affected by poor mental health, but only half of these had discussed these issues with their employers.

Reforming Employment Law

Advisory body, the Law Commission, has published a consultation paper seeking views on reforming the structure of employment law hearings. The consultation is intended to address the issues identified in a review by Briggs LJ, namely the “awkward area” of shared and exclusive jurisdiction in the fields of employment discrimination, which can cause delay and prevent cases being dealt with by those best equipped to do so. Among some of the issues under consultation are:

  • Increasing the limitation period for claims in the employment tribunals from three to six months;
  • Allowing employment judges to sit in civil courts and hear non-employment related discrimination claims or create an “employment and equalities” list of specialist judges;
  • Raising or removing the limit of £25,000 on breach of contract claims in the employment tribunal;
  • Giving the EAT jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Central Arbitration Committee on issue of union recognition which can currently only be heard by way of judicial review.

Consultation closes on 11 January 2019 and comments can be submitted via the Law Commission’s website

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