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HR News Update – Discrimination increasing as a leading cause of tribunal claims

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The proportion of discrimination claims in the Employment Tribunal workload is now at its highest level for four years as smaller claims drop off, says GQ Employment Law, the specialist employment law firm. 

This is despite the total number of claims being filed in the Employment Tribunals falling by around 80 percent since fees were introduced in 2013. GQ Employment Law explains that the introduction of fees for employment tribunal claims in July 2013 has caused a drop off in claims overall but this appears to have mostly affected lower-value claims. The cost of the fees is deterring many disgruntled former staff from pursuing claims, especially where the value of the prospective compensation is limited. For example, compensation for unfair dismissal claims is capped at £76,574 or one year’s pay, whichever is lower, and claims for breach of contract are limited to £25,000. Most cases have historically been worth a small fraction of this.

However, there is no upper limit on the compensation that can be claimed for a discrimination claim. This means that litigants still consider it worth making these claims as the pay-out could far outweigh the inconvenience of the tribunal fees. GQ Employment Law adds that sex discrimination claims now make up over half of discrimination claims (55 percent), up from just over a third two years ago (38 percent). This is because sex discrimination claims are rising whilst other kinds of discrimination claims are falling. The total number of sex discrimination claims has increased by 27 percent since 2011/12, from 10,783 to 13,722, while the total number of other discrimination claims has fallen by 37 percent since 2011/12, from 17,786 to 11,199.  

Employers continue to make mistakes around maternity leave that expose them to a sex discrimination claim, for example by promoting or retaining the staff member who covered the person on maternity leave. There is a big group of potential claimants which is continuing to grow as more women decide to stay in the UK workforce after having children. The number of women in the UK workforce has risen by over 300,000 in the last year,* from 13.85 million to 14.16 million. Darren Issacs, partner at GQ Employment Law, comments: “Employers that aren’t up to speed on the rights of their employees can easily fall foul of employment laws. Over recent years there’s been a big effort in the City to improve equality at a senior level, and undoubtedly there are now many more women working in senior positions within these companies.”

However, many female employees feel that the same efforts have not been made at a lower level, and this feeling has contributed to an increase in the number of sex discrimination claims. Some City women perceive that while every effort is made to promote and support female superstars, women who are not quite part of that elite are less valued than their male peers and find it harder to  progress.”

 

* Three months to April 30th 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, ONS.

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