The latest Survey of Employment Tribunal Application (SETA) was published last week. Conducted on a five yearly basis, SETA seeks to provide information on the characteristics of the parties in, and key features of, employment tribunal (ET) cases.
The latest survey, which took place between 3 January 2012 and 4 January 2013, involving 1,988 claimants and 2,011 employers, focussed on:
- Obtaining information regarding the characteristics of employment tribunal claimants
- Assessing the costs of going to tribunal
- Monitoring the performance of the employment tribunal claims process
Characteristics of claimants
The survey identified a number of significant characteristics that are likely to be associated with ET claimants. They are:
- More likely to have been employed as a permanent staff member
- More likely to be aged 45 or over
- More likely to be male (57% of claimants were men, compared to a 51% male workforce)
- More likely to be managers, directors and senior officials
- More likely to work in the private sector (72% of employers involved in claims were in the private sector, compare to 69% of the workforce in the private sector.)
Claims were disproportionately high in the construction, administration and support, human health and social work activities. One particularly significant result was the public sector’s share of discrimination cases – whilst only accounting for 17% of cases overall, cases in the public sector accounted for 30% of all discrimination cases.
Assessing the costs of tribunals
Sixty-two percent of claimants reported personal financial costs from travel, communication and loss of earnings. This SETA took place before the new ET fees were introduced in July 2013, but when questioned 49% of claimants said that an initial claim fee of £250 would have influenced their decision to go to tribunal. Most would be using personal savings or borrowing from family to meet that cost. In addition to financial costs, non-financial costs cited included stress, depression and feeling emotionally drained. One third of employers felt that the case had had negative impacts on the organisation that were not financial.
Performance of the ET claims process
This survey pre-dated the mandatory logging with Acas and receipt of a conciliation certificate, however Acas conciliators were made aware of every ET claim made, and required to contact the claimant and employer to offer conciliation. 59% of claimants reported they had personal contact with an Acas conciliation officer, and 20% advised that their representative had had contact. This is an improvement on figures from 2007 that were 48% and 18% respectively. However, from now on, claimants must contact Acas before they can proceed with an ET claim. Of those claimants that had contact with Acas, 61% said that they were important in helping them reach a decision about how to proceed with their claim, and 68% were satisfied or very satisfied with the service received.
The outcome of ET claims varied by type of claim – for example, redundancy claims were less likely than others to result in settlements, and Wages Act claims were more likely to be settled privately. 54% of cases were settled, with employers citing financial reasons and saving time as the main reasons for offering settlement, only pursuing if they were sure of their case. 17% of claimants went to full tribunal hearing; claimants aged 65+ were more likely to go to full tribunal than under 25s. 90% of the cases that went to full tribunal were decided in favour of the claimants and involved award of money.
One in four claimants and one in four employers reported dissatisfaction with the ET system, up from 2007 figures. Their reasons included viewing the system as unfair, too costly, lack of help or support, too slow and poor communication.