The Law Society has called for action to be taken to clear a backlog of cases in employment tribunals ahead of an anticipated "avalanche" of post-COVID claims.
Chancery Lane said the employment tribunal system needed increased resources to be able to deliver justice promptly, warning that employers and employees already faced prolonged periods of uncertainty with long waiting times for cases to be heard.
Since employment tribunal fees were abolished in 2017, the number of claims had increased substantially, it added, without the same increase in resources.
The Law Society pointed to comments recently from Judge Barry Clarke, president of the employment tribunals for England and Wales,, that there was likely to be an “increase in redundancy-related dismissals” as the Government’s job retention scheme is wound down.
Law Society president Simon Davis said: “If employment tribunals cannot hear cases in a short timeframe there will be many unsettled claims over the next two years.
“Given difficulties with holding in person hearings and the likely surge in cases arising from loss of employment, changes to terms, furlough and other consequences of COVID-19, it is important that employment tribunals are able to get on with delivering justice.”
The Law Society said cases were often listed for hearing more than 12 months from when the request was first made, while more complex claims could take as much as two years to get a judgment.
Chancery Lane also expressed concern that lengthy waiting times for cases to be heard would lead to delays in the emergence of the case law needed as employers and employees face up to a post COVID-19 pandemic working environment.
Davis said: “At the moment, there is much uncertainty as to how COVID-19 related disputes will be decided, as we are applying established employment law principles to entirely new circumstances.
“The more cases that are heard, the more judgments that are handed down, the better everyone will understand how employment law applies to what is happening, and the quicker settlements can be reached.”