Employment tribunal claims increased in the months after fees were declared unlawful, the head of the conciliation service has revealed.

Sir Brendan Barber, chairman of Acas, said demand for its early conciliation service rose by 20% over the two months following a Supreme Court decision in July, while there was a 60% jump in tribunal claims compared with the same period a year earlier.

Sir Brendan said the court ruling was a “significant outcome” for those who argued that tribunal fees were a barrier to accessing justice.

The Supreme Court upheld a challenge by Unison that the charges were discriminatory.

Sir Brendan predicted there could be “challenging disputes” in the public sector in 2018 because of ongoing tensions over pay not rising in line with inflation.

He said pay will be high on the agenda this year as all large employers will have to publish the differences between men and women's pay in April.

In a new year blog, he said: “Right across the economy living standards are facing a squeeze.

“As was recognised in the new industrial strategy recently, improving the UK's productivity is the key challenge that can deliver higher living standards.

“Next month will see the end of the consultation period on the Financial Reporting Council's new Corporate Governance Code, which includes guidance around how companies can ensure workers have a greater voice in boardrooms.

“This could herald a new recognition of the importance of workplace relations in our economic performance.”

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