Employment tribunal claims 1988 – 2011

by Laurie Anstis on April 17, 2012

In preparation for a talk I am giving next week I have been looking at the figures for the number of tribunal claims brought over the years.

There are many different ways of looking at employment tribunal statistics, but the most consistently available figures are for the number of applications lodged with the tribunal. For the purposes of these figures, a claim that an individual’s dismissal was both discriminatory and unfair would count as one claim, and fifty individuals all bringing equal pay claims arising out of the same situation would count as fifty claims.

Here are the number of applications made from 1988 – 2011, including the trend line generated by Excel:


 It is difficult to know what, if any, conclusions can be drawn from this. There are many ups and downs in the figures, with notable peaks in 1995, 2000, 2007 and 2009. These are almost certainly down to massive multiple claims running chronologically from part-time worker pension claims to public sector equal pay claims and then airline working time claims. These huge multiple claims, brought by thousands of people at a time, would need to be stripped out of the statistics to show any reliable underlying trend. Even though there are spikes in those particular years, the multiple claims would have been brought in years either side of the spikes as well, so would distort figures for the neighbouring years too.

It is hard to strip these out of the claims so as to ascertain the rate of like-for-like increase. As at 2003 there were over 100,000 outstanding part time pension cases, and the subsequent equal pay and airline working time cases are likely to have been of that order.

Given the increase in the jurisdiction of the employment tribunals over these years it would be surprising if there was not an underlying increase in claims, but exactly how much is difficult to tell. The earliest year for which I have been able to find figures for the number of unfair dismissal claims brought is 1998/99, when 37,034 claims were registered, compared to 47,900 claims in 2010/11 – though there have been considerable ups and downs in the figures in between those two dates.

Any corrections to or observations on these figures are welcome in the comments.

[Notes: Each year stretches from 1 April to 31 March, so the figures for 2000 are for 1 April 2000 – 31 March 2001. The source material for these figures is House of Commons Research Paper 03/87, the Employment Tribunal Service annual reports for 2003-10 and the Tribunals Service statistics for 2010/11. The figures for 2011 are projected full year figures based on a mean of the three quarters for which statistics are available.]


[…] a follow up to yesterday’s post I have now prepared a chart showing the numbers of unfair dismissal claims lodged from 1998 – […]

by Unfair dismissal claims 1998 - 2011 | Work/Life/Law on 18 April 2012 at 11:11 am. #

To make sense of these figures you really have to distinguish between what I would call “cases” and “claims”. The official statistics count each claim so a claim for unfair dismissal, race discrimination and/or religious discrimination, and breach of contract (notice pay) would count as 4 claims – but it would only be one case assuming all 4 claims were presented together. You could have 5,000 equal pay claims which only amount to one “case” that has to be case managed and determined by one tribunal. As Richard Dunstan has pointed out, if you graph the single claims versus the multiple claims there has been no increase in caseload in the last 10 years – in fact the workload has decreased: http://t.co/Q6eNeh5t. That’s one employment law story the Telegraph will never report, but it’s one that needs to be told.

by @anyapalmer on 18 April 2012 at 2:53 pm. #

There is little point using the ‘headline’ figure for the number of ET claims – i.e. that used by ministers as well as the press and media – as the basis for any such analysis, as that figure gives a highly misleading impression of the actual workload of the ET system.

The headline figure includes both the number of claims by individual workers (‘single claims’), and the total number of claimants covered by ‘multiple claim’ cases, in which two or more workers claim against the same employer on the same (or very similar) grounds. Such multiple claim cases can and often do involve hundreds or even thousands of workers, each one counted as a multiple claim in the headline figure, but the ET system may need to determine only one ‘lead’ case.

In 2008/09, for example, the headline figure of 151,000 claims was made up of 63,000 single claims and 88,000 multiple claims, but those 88,000 multiple claims equated to just 7,400 multiple claim cases. Adding the latter figure to the number of single claims/cases gives a far more meaningful measure of the ET system’s workload: a total of 70,400.

In 2009/10, when the headline figure rose by 56 per cent, from 151,000 to 236,000, the number of multiple claim cases was exactly the same as the year before: 7,400. There were just many more workers (164,800) covered by those 7,400 multiple claim cases than there were in 2008/09 (88,000). And the combined number of single claims and multiple claim cases rose by just 12 per cent, from 70,400 to 78,700.

In 2010/11, the combined number of single claims and multiple claim cases fell by 15 per cent, to 66,500 – lower than in each of the two preceding years and only marginally higher than in each of the two years before that. It was also significantly lower than a decade ago, and slightly lower than the average over the years since (69,040). (There’s a graph on my blog).

By definition, the supposedly ‘vexatious’ and ‘speculative’ claims of which the (private sector) employer lobby groups such as the CBI complain so noisily must be single claims. (And most multiple claims are, in any case, against public sector employers.) So the brouhaha over ‘record’ rises in ET claims is entirely synthetic.

by Richard Dunstan on 19 April 2012 at 11:25 am. #