The government has announced a series of changes to the employment tribunal system ostensibly to help speed things up and give more flexibility, following the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

One of the changes being made will allow the judiciary the option of deploying non-employment judges into employment tribunals but only “if certain criteria on suitability are met”. The government claims this change will help the employment tribunal system deal with demand, reducing unnecessary delays.

The government is also changing 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, will not need to pay travel costs.

Other changes being implemented include:

  • allowing legal officers to carry out administrative tasks currently performed by employment judges (a proposal that was made some time ago and is finally being implemented);
  • refining the early conciliation and employment tribunal rules to allow greater flexibility in handling minor errors; and
  • 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 will come into force on 8 October. The measures on early conciliation will come into force 1 December.

Richard Arthur, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors, commented that: “The increases in flexibility for minor errors in the early conciliation process, and for the use of single claim forms in multi-claimant cases are sensible and welcome. Increased availability of video hearings might be a good thing in some cases, although we favour being able to cross-examine employers’ witnesses, and to press oral submissions, in person. We are concerned that some of the cost-cutting measures might impede service to claimants. We also believe that specialist Employment Judges are the best people to hear claims.”

To access the statutory instrument, go to: