Employment Tribunals: An Investigation into Common Claims

Thu, 08 Oct 2020 08:00

Employment Tribunals: An Investigation into Common Claims Image

We recently analysed Ministry of Justice (MOJ) data looking at employment tribunals across the UK going back over the last 5 years. In the name of business compliance, we wanted to find out what workers are most likely to take their employer to tribunal over - and the answers may surprise you!

The number one claim was in relation to The Working Time Directive, with frazzled and disgruntled employees claiming they are forced to work excessive long hours at detriment to their health and wellbeing and in breach of the law.

Under The Working Time Directive, a UK employee may not work more than 48 hours per week (on average; usually taken over a 17-week period) unless there are mitigating circumstances.

Unfortunately, in just one year (2019/2020), 26,498 employees felt they were overworked without due cause.

Looking at the data as a whole across a 5-year period the top five claims were:

  1. Working Time Directive (160,299 cases)
  2. Equal pay (115,359 cases)
  3. Unauthorised deductions (formerly wages act) (114,520 cases)
  4. Unfair dismissal (86,009 cases)
  5. Breach of contract (58,415 cases)

What does this mean?

Sadly, there has been a 25% increase in the total number of claims brought against employers. A statistic that seems to imply organisations still aren't doing enough to comply with the law and protect their employees (not to mention themselves).

If we analyse the top claims over the last 5 years in terms of percentage increase (rather than how many cases filed), the jurisdictions most in hot water were largely discrimination-based:

  1. Sexual orientation discrimination (up 165%)
  2. Disability discrimination (up 133%)
  3. Religion or belief discrimination (up 130%)
  4. Written pay statement (up 109%)
  5. Public interest disclosure (up 98%)

Although, there is some good news: the number of age discrimination cases has fallen by 80% over the same 5 year period and dropped by 3% in 2019/2020 compared to the previous year – a great trend to see across Britain!

Successful hearings

Naturally, not all claims filed are successful at tribunal. However, if we look closely at the number of disposed cases (completed cases) by outcome, the claim with the highest success rate was redundancy cases – where employers have failed to properly inform and consult redundant employees.

Almost half of all cases in this category are successful (48%) and affected employees are often awarded compensation in the thousands of pounds.

Further Analysis

Over the last 5 years, equal pay claims have increased by 181% and sex discrimination claims by 15%. Unauthorised deductions cases (where an employee has been unpaid or underpaid wages) increased by 114%.

It's not all bad news though. It's good to see that last year a third of discrimination cases related to age, disability, or pregnancy were resolved through an ACAS conciliated settlement – a process usually involving mediation and eventual agreement between employer/employee.

As ever, prioritising your employees' wellbeing and treating them with fairness, dignity, and respect – in line with The Equality Act 2010 – is the best way to avoid employment tribunals as a business, as is following clear and transparent processes designed to treat everyone consistently.

It's important, as business owners, to train managers and team-leaders in your organisation to handle these processes fairly and to deal with grievances in a reasonable and respectful manner, always in line with basic employment law.

Don't neglect to regularly update employees in positions of trust with information about your statutory and contractual requirements as a business - this empowers them to speak up in everyone's best interest.

Below you'll find full data on the number and type of jurisdictional complaint, as well as data arranged by outcome:

Number and type of jurisdictional complaint

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 729,627

Age Discrimination

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 31,935

Year on year change: -3.41%

5 year change: -80.94%

Breach of contract

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 58,415

Year on year change: +3.78%

5 year change: +59.25%

Disability discrimination

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 27,754

Year on year change: +16.98%

5 year change: +133.26%

Equal pay

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 115,359

Year on year change: -11.50%

5 year change: +43.83%

National minimum wage

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 1,476

Year on year change: -14%

5 year change: +25.94%

Part-time workers regulations

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 1,543

Year on year change: +3.65%

5 year change: +45.12%

Public interest disclosure

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 10,465

Year on year change: +6.89%

5 year change: +98.43%

Race discrimination

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 14,719

Year on year change: +8.58%

5 year change: +94.66%

Redundancy - failure to inform and consult

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 23,329

Year on year change: +25.15%

5 year change: +73.32%

Redundancy pay

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 22,479

Year on year change: +18.39%

5 year change: +66.51%

Religion or belief discrimination

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 2,931

Year on year change: +4.12%

5 year change: +130.59%

Sex discrimination

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 35,363

Year on year change: -34.31%

5 year change: +15.11%

Sexual orientation discrimination

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 1,661

Year on year change: 8.24%

5 year change: 165.43%

Suffer a detriment / unfair dismissal - pregnancy

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 6,522

Year on year change: -10.61%

5 year change: +87.05%

Transfer of an undertaking - failure to inform and consult

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 3,624

Year on year change: -29.91%

5 year change: -11.81%

Unauthorised deductions (formerly Wages Act)

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 114,520

Year on year change: -0.26%

5 year change: -38.22%

Unfair dismissal

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 86,009

Year on year change: -1.06%

5 year change: +60.60%

Working Time Directive

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 160,299

Year on year change: -46.71%

5 year change: -28.02%

Written pay statement

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 4,145

Year on year change: -64.86%

5 year change: +109.60%

Written statement of reasons for dismissal

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 1,200

Year on year change: +57.40%

5 year change: 67.14%

Written statement of terms and conditions

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 5,879

Year on year change: -10.87%

5 year change: +23.46%


Type of jurisdiction by outcome

(ACAS Conciliated Settlements, success at hearing and unsuccessful at hearing)

Please note these are disposed (completed) cases and are not the only potential outcomes

Total (2015/2016-2019/2020): 482,741

Age discrimination

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: +83.86%

Success at hearing: +59.74%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +29.39%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: +10.07%

Success at hearing: -6.30%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -53.82%

Breach of contract

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -14.29%

Success at hearing: -10.21%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -15.40%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -17.52%

Success at hearing: +8.28%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -6.50%

Disability discrimination

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -9.30%

Success at hearing: +22.06%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -3.43%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -22.62%

Success at hearing: -31.24%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -30.90%

Equal pay

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -52.87%

Success at hearing: +440.95%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -88.17%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -90.93%

Success at hearing: +181.47%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +204.23%

National minimum wage

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: +5.59%

Success at hearing: -18.66%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +16.68%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -28.01%

Success at hearing: +1.47%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +101.25%

Part-time workers regulations

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -33.80%

Success at hearing: -50.63%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +54.74%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -45.05%

Success at hearing: -50.51%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -63.36%

Public interest disclosure

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -12.07%

Success at hearing: +14.12%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -11.07%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -19.68%

Success at hearing: -31.95%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -34.09%

Race discrimination

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -8.40%

Success at hearing: -16.42%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -4.48%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -15.93%

Success at hearing: -43.43%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -32.07%

Redundancy - failure to inform and consult

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: +32.46%

Success at hearing: +24.03%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +58.26%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -64.57%

Success at hearing: -20.09%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -18.64%

Redundancy pay

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -26.78%

Success at hearing: -25.44%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -37.11%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -29.39%

Success at hearing: +10.28%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -11.56%

Religion/belief discrimination

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: +18.85%

Success at hearing: +12.19%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +32.22%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: +88.36%

Success at hearing: -29.22%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -24.65%

Sex discrimination

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -9.74%

Success at hearing: +39.51%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -16.72%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -8.91%

Success at hearing: -150.28%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +116.25%

Sexual orientation discrimination

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -8.33%

Success at hearing: +29.98%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +14.47%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -24.07%

Success at hearing: -52.03%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -18.67%

Suffer a Detriment/Unfair Dismissal - Pregnancy

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -5.26%

Success at hearing: +3.26%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +21.02%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -20.36%

Success at hearing: -20.47%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -24.85%

Transfer of an undertaking - failure to inform and consult

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -4.71%

Success at hearing: +166.28%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -58.16%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -46.50%

Success at hearing: +41.54%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -38.35%

Unauthorised deductions

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -21.62%

Success at hearing: -7.75%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -3.16%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -25.12%

Success at hearing: +114.89%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -28.35%

Unfair dismissal

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -5.68%

Success at hearing: +1.69%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -11.85%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -38.49%

Success at hearing: +2.61%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -21.62%

Working time directive

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -19.30%

Success at hearing: -13.50%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -23.43%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -10.16%

Success at hearing: +52.94%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -1.91%

Written pay statement

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -18.62%

Success at hearing: -7.06%

Unsuccessful at hearing: +31.48%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -47.81%

Success at hearing: +26.22%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -8.15%

Written statement of reasons for dismissal

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -54.60%

Success at hearing: +18.03%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -45.26%

5 year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -59.10%

Success at hearing: -34.74%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -39.76%

Written statement of terms and conditions

Year on year change:

ACAS Conciliated Settlements: -13.94%

Success at hearing: +45.30%

Unsuccessful at hearing: -17.17%


With thanks to Richard Nelson LLP for their expert guidance on this project.

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