Employment Tribunal System Reforms

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08 Dec 2016

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The Government has published its consultation document Reforming the Employment Tribunal System. The aim of the consultation is to seek views on issues to be considered in implementing wider justice system reform principles in the Employment Tribunal system. Here, Amanda Beattie, Litigation Manager at Croner looks at the main elements and what impact it may have on businesses and claimants.

Digitising the claims process

For organisations who have expert representation, the digitisation of claims should not pose too much of an issue.  However, the issues may arise with Claimants and those organisations that are not represented – in particular litigants-in-person, who do not have adequate support and access to IT facilities, or the competency to use it.

This could lead to mistakes, or missing deadlines which would slow down the process for all users and potentially lead to extra judicial time in dealing with such issues. On a separate point, an overarching issue would also be that the ET/EAT will need to have an appropriate IT infrastructure to deal with digitising the process.

Delegating routine tasks to caseworkers

This could assist with Claimants who frequently contact the ET regarding issues such as disclosure and general procedural matters, which currently would need to be reviewed and responded to by a Judge.

This could speed up the entire ET process. However, even decisions on procedural matters can have detrimental effects on cases, therefore appropriate training and supervision for these caseworkers would be necessary. In addition, appropriate safeguarding in relation to appealing caseworkers’ decisions would need to be devised and implemented.

Composition of the Tribunal panel

Employment cases can cover a uniquely wide and diverse subject matter, which are often not necessarily obvious from the claim/response form. Therefore, it would probably be difficult to be able to assess the appropriate panel composition. It is generally the case that the ET will not make jurisdictional decisions on discrimination cases at a preliminary stage and wait until they have heard the evidence at a hearing, this is also frequently the case with protected disclosure cases. It is likely that the same principals will apply when assessing panel composition at a preliminary stage.

The ET already have adequate measures on panel composition by their allocation of Judge only or full panel depending on the type of case, therefore this is an appropriate filter given the complexity of employment cases. Without being able to safely assess cases in relation to panel composition at a preliminary stage is likely to lead to allegations of unfairness from both Claimants and Respondents, which will slow down the process and increase judicial time and intervention

Unnecessary restrictions on how a particular case will be determined

This does have the potential to reduce time and costs for our clients, however appropriate safeguards and appeal processes would need to be devised and implemented if a party does not agree with the decision made. Croner will be responding to the Government consultation in due course on behalf of clients to ensure that the Government considers the needs of organisations and makes the process as fair and simple as possible. Keep an eye out on our news section for more information.

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