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Large increase in disability employment discrimination cases

20 January 2020

Financial Times analysis finds large increase in disability employment discrimination cases

An analysis of cases being brought to employment tribunals published by the Financial Times has shown a "surge" in cases of disability discrimination. Following the introduction of tribunal fees in July 2013, the number of disability discrimination cases dropped considerably. In the two years prior to the introduction of tribunal fees, an average 1,827 disability discriminations went to tribunal every three months. After fees were introduced, the average number of cases dropped to less than half, averaging 876 cases per three-month period. Since the fees were declared unlawful by the Supreme Court in a case brought by Unison in July 2017, the volume of disabiltiy discrimination cases has started to return to pre-tribunal fee levels. Since July 2017 there have been an average of 1,673 disability discrimination cases going to tribunal each quarter, and in the most recently data covering July to September 2019 released by the Ministry of Justice, over 2,000 disability discrimination cases were brought. 

Commenting on these findings, Evan Odell, a Researcher at Disability Rights UK has said:

"The increase in disability discrimination cases being brought to tribunal after the removal of tribunal fees was entirely predictable. But many barriers to justice remain for disabled people. Cuts to legal aid and the lack of support for law centres means many disabled people struggle to access free and impartial legal advice about their employment rights, or face financial barriers to bringing a claim even without the fees. Many employers large and small also remain unaware of their legal duties towards disabled employees and the benefits of having disabled people on staff, as well as programmes like Access to Work that can pay for the cost of many reasonable adjustments."

Evan Odell also visualised the volume of disability discrimination employment tribunal cases in the graph below, showing the large drop in cases following fees:

Graph showing changes in disability discrimination claims, with a large drop between July 2013 and July 2017, due to tribunal fees