Changing the Rules in the Employment Tribunal system

17 July 2012

The Rules relating to Employment Tribunal procedures are to change. Whilst, on the face of it, that may sound like something only of interest to employment lawyers the proposed changes could improve the system for all of those having to use it.
Following a review, a report was published last week with an accompanying set of draft Rules. Some of the most interesting proposals are as follows:

  • Tribunals bringing in an initial “sift” stage: An Employment Judge will go through the claim and the defence to work out (i) whether either should be struck out for having no reasonable prospect of succeeding; or (ii) what directions t should be made in the case.
    • Point (i) should mean that claims filed without any basis ­ or hopeless defences to claims ­ will be weeded out of the system.
  • Case Management Discussions and Pre-hearing Reviews being merged and known as ‘Preliminary Hearings’.
    • This should reduce costs for both parties and enable more efficient case management.
  • Main hearings will be given indicative timetables with potential ‘guillotines’ (i.e. cut off times for evidence from different individuals).
    • This should allow for the most efficient use of the Tribunal’s time and cut down on irrelevant evidence.
  • It will be easier to achieve private hearings and obtain ‘restrictive reporting orders’.
    • This should give the necessary protection to both those making and those implicated in sensitive accusations.

Within the same report, suggested legislative changes were put forward ­ including the concept of claimants having to pay a deposit order for part of their case (i.e. in relation to a particular issue). In our opinion this would increase the likelihood of deposit orders being granted. For example where an employee had a mediocre unfair dismissal claim and an extremely weak race discrimination claim the respondent employer could apply for the claimant to pay a deposit on the discrimination issue alone and it would stand a greater chance of success. Again, this could weed out extremely weak cases which can only benefit all parties concerned. Especially when combined with the proposed ET fees.

If you have any questions in relation to Employment Tribunal procedures and/or a particular claim then please contact our team.