NEW reforms to employment tribunals are likely to result in fewer claims, an employment expert says.

The number of tribunal cases nationally has already fallen dramatically since the introduction of fees for tribunals and the opportunity to have “frank and off the record” discussions with staff.

The number of claims nationally from October to December last year stood at 9,801, down 79 per cent on the same period in 2012.

Kate Brooks, associate with Ellis Jones Solicitors in Bournemouth, said a further drop was likely with the introduction of more rules this month.

Employees wanting to bring a case of unfair dismissal or discrimination have to first notify the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), which will assign a conciliator and attempt to facilitate a settlement.

The settlement could include a reference or financial compensation.

If an agreement cannot be reached, Acas will provide a certificate and reference number so the employee can issue a claim.

Most claims in the tribunal must be lodged within three months of the “triggering act”, although the time limit is paused during the early conciliation process.

Employment law expert Kate Brooks, an Associate with Ellis Jones, said although a pre-claim conciliation service was already operating, it had been voluntary.

"It's now mandatory which will probably have an effect but not a huge one.

“In my view the biggest impact on the number of tribunal claims is that employers can now have frank and off the record discussions before the employment relationship is over," she said.

She added: "Tactically, in light of the introduction of tribunal fees for employees, it is likely that employers will want to wait and see whether an employee is prepared to incur an issue fee of £250 before engaging in off the record negotiations.

“It is far more sensible for employers to try to deal with matters before the employee is dismissed or has resigned."