Employment tribunal claims in the UK are taking an average of eight months to be heard, as the system struggles under government funding cuts and a surge in complaints.
A report found that waiting times have risen for the fourth year in a row, meaning the average delay between a claim being lodged and an employment tribunal taking place is now 237 days. This compares with 207 days last year, according to research by employment law firm GQ Littler.
The number of claims has also jumped by more than 25% to 35,430 over the past year.
Claims have been on the rise since 2017, when the fees required to launch a claim were abolished. It came at a time when tribunal services were already struggling due to government funding cuts that make it tough to hire enough frontline staff to handle bigger caseloads.
That, in turn, led to growing delays that have left both employers and workers facing months of uncertainty.
Raoul Parekh, a partner at GQ Littler, said: “Employment tribunals will soon reach breaking point. Eight-month delays are just not sustainable and can be very challenging for both parties involved.
“On this kind of timeline, it is not uncommon for key witnesses to leave, move to other roles or countries, and memories can also fade.”
Delays have even affected the tribunal inquiries helpline, where callers can be left waiting for hours, he said.
“If no material increase in funding arises then authorities may need to look at more creative solutions. Options put forward include introducing a new step in the tribunals process which gives both parties a chance to settle before a case is heard in court,” Parekh added.
Long wait times could deter serious claims against employers.
A recent report by the all-party parliamentary group for whistleblowing found that some whistleblowers were waiting between 18 and 36 months for their claim to reach a conclusion. It noted that the “excessive duration” of tribunal trials could discourage whistleblowers from presenting complaints, preferring to resign or retire instead of confronting their employer.
Commenting on the GQ Littler report, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “This is an unacceptable delay. Workers who have been unlawfully treated by bad bosses should not be forced to wait even longer for justice.”