Long hours main reason workers take their employer to tribunal

TribunalUK workers are most likely to log a claim against their employer for making them work excessively long hours, claims new data by health and safety training provider DeltaNet International. The data, which looks at the number of employment tribunal cases over the last five years, suggests there have been 160,299 jurisdictions (complaints) in relation to employers breaking the Working Time Directive, which outlines the maximum weekly working hours. Under the directive, a UK employee cannot work more than 48 hours a week on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks – unless there is an exception.

Through the analysis of Ministry of Justice (MOJ) data, DeltaNet International uncovered the top reasons people take their company to an employment tribunal. The statistics also claim that across 20 of the most common jurisdiction categories, most complaints made in 2019/2020 were in relation to the Working Time Directive (26,498).

Taking the data from across the last five years, the top five categories were:

• Working Time Directive (160,299 cases)
• Equal pay (115,359 cases)
• Unauthorised deductions (formerly wages act) (114,520 cases)
• Unfair dismissal (86,009 cases)
• Breach of contract (58,415 cases)

When comparing 2019/2020 to 2015/2016, there has been a 25 percent increase in the total number of employment tribunal cases over the last five years.

Taking a percentage change into account – rather than the number of cases – the top five categories reporting an increase in cases over the last five years were:

• Sexual orientation discrimination (up 165 percent)
• Disability discrimination (up 133 percent)
• Religion or belief discrimination (up 130 percent)
• Written pay statement (up 109 percent)
• Public interest disclosure (up 98 percent)

The number of age discrimination cases, however, has fallen by 80 percent over that period. In 2019/2020, it saw 3 percent fewer complaints made than the year before.

DeltaNet International also analysed the number of disposed cases (completed cases) by outcome. It suggests redundancy cases – where an employer has failed to inform and consult – as the jurisdictional category with the highest level of claimant success in 2019/2020, with 48 percent of cases in this category recording a ‘successful at hearing’ verdict. Employees that win their case are likely to be granted compensation by their company.

“Employees will often want a tribunal to say they are right and the employer was wrong”

“I was not surprised to see that tribunal claims were on the rise as a whole. Tribunal fees were abolished on 26 July 2017 and since then tribunals have seen an increase year on year with claims being lodged as now an unhappy employee can use the tribunal system without it costing them anything,” said Jayne Harrison, Head of Employment Law at Richard Nelson LLP. “Previously the fees were around £1200 for an unfair dismissal case but much less (£390) for a wages claim/unlawful deduction. This seemed to act as a bar to potential litigants and one of the main reasons why the fees were abolished when they were challenged by the unions.

“Employees will often want a tribunal to say they are right and the employer was wrong when they bring their claim to the tribunal. However, the tribunal system does try and mediate claims with the mandatory use of Acas early conciliation prior to issuing a claim in the tribunal and the increased use of judicial mediation before a claim has gone to a final hearing. Judicial mediation is where a judge will try and mediate the claims between both parties. This can be a useful way to resolve a conflict without the need to go to a full hearing allowing both parties to feel that they have resolved the matter to their satisfaction or allowing the agreement of references or changes to the workplace that would not be ordered at a final hearing.”

When looking at a five year period, equal pay cases have seen a 181 percent increase in successful hearings, followed by sex discrimination (150 percent) and unauthorised deductions (114 percent) cases. Last year, one in three cases related to age, disability or pregnancy discrimination were resolved via an ACAS conciliated settlement, usually through mediation, while one in 10 cases related to religion or belief or race discrimination were ‘unsuccessful’.

The full data can be found here.

Image by Daniel Bone