I know that everyone is making jokes about our esteemed leader at the moment, and some of them are actually quite funny, but I’ve got a different bone to pick with him, or his staff.  I don’t think they can count too well.

Apparently, the Government has reported that Employment Tribunal proceedings are taking an average of 12 months to get to a hearing. That doesn’t necessarily mean a final hearing but can often mean a first hearing.  If that is true, then this is a staggeringly long period of time, considering that when I first did employment law we would expect an average case to go start to finish in six months, baring unforeseen eventualities.

However, having conducted a straw poll around my office, and comparing my colleagues’ experiences with their Tribunal cases, and added to my own experiences, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as that.  We’ve currently involved in around 8 live cases, only one of which has taken 12 months to get to a hearing.

Having said that, one of the cases that got to a first hearing within 6 months then crashed and burned when the Tribunal failed to turn up.  Yes, you read that correctly.  We were ready.  The other side were ready.  The Chairman was a no show.  I have never had that happen to me before in any court, but interestingly I’ve had it happen a couple of times since!

This could simply mean that London courts where we do the majority of our work are the ones that are least affected, and it’s the provincial courts that are struggling.  If that’s the case then there is not much we can do to change things, as you don’t get to pick what Tribunal you go to.  It depends on the location of the place of work.

Whatever the reason, if you are an employee it’s still better to try to avoid going to Tribunal, and not just because of the delays.  Except in the most extreme cases, you are never going to recover your costs, and the amount of an average award is unlikely to cover your legal fees.  In addition, with insolvency on the increase, there is the risk that by the time you get to a final hearing and assuming you are successful, your employer may have ceased trading, in which case you will get nothing.  This doesn’t mean I am suggesting that you shouldn’t consider bringing a legitimate claim, but it does mean that employers may become more hard nosed about negotiations, in which case you may need to be more pragmatic about accepting an offer.

If you’re an employer, although you may be tempted to use these delays to your advantage, our experience does show that not all cases are taking this long, and if you stall or refuse to try and settle just because you think it might take months and possibly die a death before it gets very far, then you may get a higher award against you than might otherwise have been the case.  So it may cost you more in the long run.

Of course, the best option is not to get into a dispute with your employer/employee in the first place by having a proper process for dealing with disputes and making sure you use it!  If you already know how to keep out of trouble, then you could give Mr Johnson a few tips.  If not, you know where we are.

Kleyman & Co Solicitors.  We know how to keep people out of trouble.