Business

Industrial tribunal cases in Northern Ireland jump 28 per cent to more than 3,000

In the year to March 31 2016, a total of 3030 cases were brought against businesses by employees
Andrew Madden

THE number of cases brought before the Industrial Tribunal against businesses in the north has soared by nearly 30 per cent in the last two years, figures have revealed.

In the year to March 31 last, a total of 3,030 cases were brought against businesses for claims relating to unfair dismissal, wages and other payments, as well as discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation and age.

This represents as 28 per cent increase when compared to the previous year.

And these cases resulted in 7,144 complaints being made to the tribunal – a 33 per cent rise from the previous 12 months.

The figures were disclosed to The Irish News via a freedom of information request.

In total, judgments in these 3,030 cases resulted in nearly £1.5 million being paid out to claimants by businesses in Northern Ireland.

The highest claim awarded to a worker was in a case relating to their unfair dismissal, which resulted in the claimant being granted nearly £100,000 in compensation.

While many of the cases were single isolated cases against an employer, several did involve action by multiple claimants against a business.

For instance, dozens of cases of unfair dismissal were taken against one-time telecoms giant Nortel Networks, which went into administration in 2009, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs.

At its height, the Canadian business employed 1,000 people at its Monkstown facility. However the company fell into financial difficulty and, as a result, 228 workers were dismissed without notice or redundancy pay in March 2009.

In another group action, nine employees of Greene & Malpas Solicitors in Lisburn took industrial action against the business following its abrupt closure in April 2015, resulting in payments of more than £50,000 being ordered to be paid for breach of contract and redundancy payment issues.

Of the 7,144 complaints generated by the 3,030 cases, more than a third were later withdrawn by the complainant, while 33 per cent were remedied through a conciliation process between the parties, with the assistance of the Labour Relations Agency.

Some 804 cases (11.25 per cent) were eventually settled between parties, while 835 (11.7 per cent) were dismissed throughout the course of the proceedings.

In the last five years, there have been a total of 14,404 cases resulting in more than 30,000 complaints heard by the Industrial Tribunal.

Data was also obtained from the Fair Employment Tribunal, which hears complaints relating to discrimination by employers based on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion.

In the year to March 31 2016 there were 97 cases heard by the tribunal.

While this represents a 12 per cent decrease when compared to the previous year when there were 111 cases, the number of cases settled between parties more than doubled - from eight to 17.

More than £25,000 in compensation was paid out to claimants by employers as a result of these cases.

In the last five years, there have been 675 cases brought before the Fair Employment Tribunal.

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