The former president of the appeal tribunal system, Mr Justice Underhill, last week submitted his review of Employment Tribunal rules to the government.
He has made a number of recommendations to “enable Employment Tribunals to deal with cases fairly and justly”, including: - An early paper sift so that employment judges can look at weak cases earlier in the process and dismiss claims that don’t have an arguable complaint.
- Combining case management discussions and pre hearing reviews and renaming them preliminary hearings so that claims are only considered once prior to a hearing.
- Removing the cap of £20,000 beyond which costs awards have to be referred for assessment to the county court.
- Providing new “presidential guidance’ to give the parties in a dispute a much better idea of what to expect from the Tribunal process and equally, what is expected of them. This will help them consider alternatives to resolving their disputes outside of the Tribunal process.
- A change to the withdrawals process so that when one party ends the dispute at Tribunal the other does not have to signal their intention to end the claim. (At the moment when a claimant decides that they no longer wish to pursue a case against their employer, the case cannot be closed until the employer has made an official application.)
- Simplifying the rules setting aside default judgments to make them simpler and more flexible.
- Expanding provisions for restricted reporting and anonymity orders allowing Tribunals to more easily balance the principles of open justice and freedom of expression on the one hand and of privacy and effective justice on the other.
- Introducing an express rule giving judges the power to limit oral evidence and submissions, and enforce a guillotine when necessary.
A formal consultation on the review will follow later this year.