The under-resourcing of the Employment Tribunals is causing serious delays for workers seeking justice for wrong-doing by their employers.
There has been a “perfect storm” of reductions in administrative resources, no new appointments of Employment Judges in the past five years and the effects of the abolition of the Government’s unfair and discriminatory Employment Tribunal fees last summer.
The Government’s so-called Improvement Programme saw, for example, the closure in August 2017 of the administrative centre at Huntingdon, with the work transferred to Watford, and hearings moved to Cambridge. Watford’s administrative staff are so over worked that it is not uncommon for them to be sending out emails about cases in the evening or at the weekend as they battle to address the backlog.
The Employment Tribunal Fees had been declared unlawful by the Supreme Court only a couple of weeks previously, in July. In the last quarter of 2017, the number of single ET claims was up by 90%, at 8,173 and the backlog of claims had increased by 66%.
The Government’s starving of HM Courts and Tribunal Service of the resources that it needs is having a significant impact on working people. Although it is only March, Community members have already got hearings listed for January and March 2019.
The insufficient budget has meant that in some areas the Employment Tribunals had to avoid listing discrimination hearings for several months as they’d spent their entire budget for lay members to make up full panels halfway through the financial year.
Employment Judges left or retired when fees came in and their workload dropped. According to the Government’s own list for England and Wales, no new Employment Judges have been added since September 2013. There are now just 123 Employment Judges to cover the whole of England and Wales.
There has rightly been a focus recently on matters such as sexual harassment at work, with the #MeToo campaign at the forefront of the news agenda. However the sad truth is that if you are sexually harassed at work it could well take 9-12 months to have your case heard.
The Government recently “named and shamed” several employers who have failed to pay the National Living Wage or National Minimum wage. Hard working families on low pay can’t do without the money that they are due. They also cannot afford to wait months to get a Tribunal to order their employer to cough up.
The Ministry of Justice need to provide the Courts and Tribunal Service with the money and people they need to help provide justice for those who need it. Starving the Employment Tribunals of funds is just as unfair as the ET fees which were abolished in July. Working people cannot afford the wait, the money must be found.