New Tribunal Procedure Rules

  • David Harris
  • Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

A new statutory instrument was brought before parliament on 17 September 2020 to amend the tribunal procedural rules.  The rules were changed to make the following allowances:

  • More flexibility to be permitted over virtual hearings due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • As Covid-19 has created a significant backlog of problems in the Employment Tribunal, if certain criteria on suitability are met, it will be possible to deploy non-employment judges into employment tribunals.
  • The legal officers will be allowed to carry out some tasks that were being performed by employment judges. (This rule was proposed a few years ago and is now being brought into force).
  • New reforms have been introduced to help the employment tribunal system to hear more cases and open more court space – ensuring a speedier resolution of cases for businesses and employees.
  • The ACAS Early Conciliation process, and tribunal rules are being amended to allow greater flexibility in handling minor errors.

The measures for the employment tribunal rules, use of legal officers and cross-deployment of judges came into force on 8 October 2020. The measures on early conciliation will come into force 1 December 2020.

Anyone who has dealt with Employment Tribunal (ET) claims recently, will know that the system was already struggling, following the abolition of employment tribunal fees in July 2017,  with some cases not being listed for a final hearing for more than a year.  The Covid-19 pandemic has only added to this backlog. The courts have been scrambling to implement technology for remote hearings, and the ET landscape is likely to be changed permanently as a result.  

The government has changed employment tribunal rules to allow more flexibility for remote hearings and reduce the burden on courts, claimants and respondents. These changes will help tribunals hear more cases and make courts space available for other urgent cases – an important step in addressing the impacts of COVID-19. The very idea of the reform is to boost the ET capacity and to assist tribunals in ensuring the speedier delivery of justice for employers and workers.  The reforms are also supposed to provide further flexibility to the system to ensure workers and businesses receive quick and fair resolutions to disputes.  

The government has made a proposal to inject £80 million of funding and an additional 1,600 staff, to reduce delays and deliver justice in ET.  This is on top of a major £142 million investment across the courts system announced in July to speed up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms.  

Other parts of the proposal include increasing the use of technology and rolling out further safety measures to ensure that the tribunals recover from the effects of the pandemic as quickly as possible.  One of the changes will allow the judiciary the option of deploying non-employment judges into employment tribunals if certain criteria on suitability are met. This will help the employment tribunal system deal with demand, reducing unnecessary delays.  

The government has also changed employment tribunal rules to allow more flexibility over virtual hearings. The change will reduce the need for physical hearings in the future, making it easier for claimants and respondents, who, for example, would not need to pay travel costs.  

Other changes that were implemented include the following: 

  • Allowing legal officers to carry out administrative tasks that were previously performed by employment judges.
  • Refining the early conciliation and employment tribunal rules to allow greater flexibility in handling minor errors.
  • Changing the employment tribunal rules to allow multiple claimants and respondents to use the same forms where reasonable, at the employment tribunal stage, to avoid multiple forms and time limits in what is essentially the same dispute.

The measures for the employment tribunal rules, use of legal officers and cross-deployment of judges came into force on 8 October 2020. The measures on early conciliation will come into force 1 December 2020.

If you need any legal advice regarding the new tribunal procedure rules, give us a call on: 0118 208 2000, or email us at: info@dphlegal.com