The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I am aware of the unprecedented level of increase in the numbers of claims to the Tribunal, from 3,173 in 2007 to 5,457 in 2008, up to 9,458 in 2009. This has placed considerable pressure on case processing timeframes. A number of steps have been taken to relieve this pressure. These include increasing the allocation of administrative resources to the Tribunal in the past two years, increasing the numbers of sittings per day, to a total of 924 in 2007, 1,304 in 2008, up to a total of 1,437 in 2009.
Efficiencies introduced in the Tribunal have increased the rate of throughput of claims from 2,807 in 2007 to 4,007 in 2008 and up to 4,680 in 2009. In addition, I have increased the pool of people available to sit on Tribunal Hearings by nine. Work is under way in relation to the IT system operated by the Tribunal in order to upgrade it and consideration is being given to the possible installation of a new IT system. The situation in the Tribunal is under constant review and further action will be taken, as necessary, within the constraints that exist in relation to resources. On a wider scale, I am also looking at the current operation of the industrial relations and employment rights under the aegis of my Department to see what scope there might be for practical steps to be taken across the bodies to deliver greater efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.