Last year's nosedive in the number of claims against employers could be short-lived.

Experts at the Birmingham office of law firm Mills & Reeve warn that the 25 per cent fall in tribunal claims, from 115,042 to 86,181, is unsustainable given the raft of new employment rights set to be created by forthcoming legislation.

According to Joy Hundle, a partner in the employment team at the firm, the drop is partly attributable to the introduction of dispute resolution procedures. These laws, which came into force in October 2004, require all employers to have minimum statutory procedures for dealing with dismissal, disciplinary action and grievances in the workplace. Mrs Hundle said: "The laws have forced employers to try to settle their differences internally and regard the tribunal as a last resort rather than the first port of call. The evidence suggests that the laws are having an impact."

However, new legislation, including the Works and Families Bill and new regulations on age discrimination are set to create new rights for workers, increasing the grounds for a claim.

Among rights introduced by the Works and Families Bill are the extension of Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance from six months to nine months and new paternity leave for fathers, enabling them to benefit from leave and statutory pay if the mother returns to work before the end of her maternity leave period.

Outlawing ageism in the workplace will be achieved by banning retirement ages below 65 and imposing a duty for employers to consider an employee's request to continue working beyond retirement.