You may already be aware that the practice and procedures of the Employment Tribunals are governed by their own set of rules.
The Government is making some changes to the rules with the snappily titled “Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2020”. The legislation will introduce a number of changes from 8 October 2020.
Given the current high volume of claims in the Employment Tribunals, and resulting backlog, hopefully, these changes may go some way to helping the system work more efficiently!
Cross-deployment of judges to employment tribunals
Subject to certain consents, judges from various other (non-employment) courts and tribunals will be able to sit as employment judges in the employment tribunals.
These include First and Upper Tier tribunal judges from other areas, High Court judges, circuit judges, district judges, deputy judges and Recorders. This will likely bring some different perspectives on cases and may result in some interesting decisions!
Delegation of certain functions to legal officers
To help with resourcing the Tribunal system, Legal Officers will be appointed to carry out certain functions which would have been previously carried out by employment judges. These include decisions on:
- Whether a claim form should be rejected for the want of an EC certificate reference number;
- Whether an extension should be granted for the response for presenting a response to an employment tribunal claim;
- Whether applications for an extension to comply with case management orders should be granted,
- Determining postponement of a hearing which is more than seven days before the date on which the hearing begins and to which all parties agree;
A full list of these functions is set out in the legislation and may well help move cases through more quickly, though our understanding is that these Legal Officers will need to be recruited which may take some time.
Changes to the Tribunal Rules themselves
A number of other changes are proposed:
- More scope for multiple claims or responses to be dealt with on a single form rather than multiple forms.
- Increased discretion for the employment judge to accept a claim if the EC number provided is defective and it would not be in the interests of justice to reject the claim. There would be similar discretion where the claimant made an error as opposed to a ‘minor’ error on the claim form relating to the names or addresses of parties.
- In relation to remote hearings, witness statements may be inspected by the public outside of a hearing. Previously, witness statements could only be inspected in a hearing.
- When it comes to the reconsideration of a rejected claim or response, any judge may consider these as opposed to the same judge who originally rejected the claim or response.
- In an uncontested claim, a default judgment may be issued after the hearing of the preliminary issue as opposed to a further hearing taking place.
- Final hearings may be listed before the deadline has passed for the presentation of a response, provided that the hearing date is no sooner than 14 days after the response is due.
- Judgments which are withdrawn under rule 52 are exempt from being recorded in the register.
Changes to Early Conciliation
The changes will also allow for conciliators to contact the parties to rectify any errors on the early conciliation forms at any time during the conciliation period.
The length of the early conciliation period will also increase noticeably to 6 weeks as opposed to the previous 1-month period plus a 14-day extension. There will no longer be the option to extend the early conciliation process.
For more information or advice on employment tribunal claims, please contact a member of our specialist employment law team by contacting them directly. You can also call us on 0115 9 100 200 or click here to send an email.
Posted on October 6, 2020