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Delays in Employment Tribunal system a message to BIS

Delays in Employment Tribunal system a message to BIS          

The end of a seven year battle involving Employment Tribunal hearings, appeals and finally the Court of Appeal is a salutary reminder of some of the problems associated with the Employment Tribunal (ET) system.

In the recent case of Davies v Sandwell Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings were issued in 2006 and the original tribunal hearing took 24 days. This was followed by four review applications, an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and then the Court of Appeal. A remitted tribunal hearing followed, then a further appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and finally the Court of Appeal case in April 2013.  

Adrian Marlowe, Chairman of ARC said: “Although the 7 years this case took to conclude is excessive, most cases take a minimum of many months and considerable effort to run. Claims by employees and agency workers cost employers significant sums every year. Some are justified, others are not, yet in every case the respondent faces a dilemma. Many choose to pay out even if the claim is entirely spurious, because it avoids wasted time and effort, and it is cheaper to do so.

“Since 2010 ARC has been pressing the government to tighten the rules that permit claims to drag on and welcomes new rules (some similar to those ARC recommended,) due to be imposed from July. But the question of the extent to which worker complaints should be handled by ETs is also a live issue within the recruitment industry.”

ARC opposed the recent proposal by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to get rid of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS) and for agency workers to pursue their claims via Employment Tribunals (ET).

Marlowe said: “If the proposal is taken forward it would place even more pressure on the Tribunal system, higher costs for all involved and delays in achieving a satisfactory conclusion. The EAS currently does an excellent job in dealing with agency worker claims quickly and efficiently.”

The consultation proposed that part of the rationale for scrapping the EAS would be to save money but in its’ response ARC challenged this principle. Marlowe said: “The annual cost of running the EAS is &pound700,000, which by any analysis is a drop in the ocean. Against the background that the EAS provides an excellent service in maintaining regulations and standards, getting results in about six weeks. This money is simply not worth saving when compared with the cost of enforcing standards via Employment Tribunals and the delays and effort that can occur as exemplified in the Sandwell case.”

Marlowe concluded: “ARC estimates that the costs to employers, workers, ACAS and ETs to deal with current complaint levels will exceed &pound1million per year and increase as claims increase, so a change would make little sense from a cost point of view. The EAS is a key part of a successful regulatory structure. Rather like sailing a yacht to go faster in the right direction you trim the sails, you don’t throw the rudder overboard and I hope the government response reflects this.”

The government’s formal response to the recent consultation is due in July.


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