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01st August 2012

Reform of the Employment Tribunal Rules

In November last year, the Government released its response to the Resolving Workplace Disputes Consultation, within which its proposals for the overhaul of the UK Employment law system were announced (see our article Overhaul of Employment Law from 30 November 2011).

As part of its response to its consultation the Government asked Mr Justice Underhill to review the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2004 (the Rules) which set out the procedural rules to be followed when dealing with an Employment Tribunal claim, in an attempt to assist in making tribunals more user friendly and efficient.

Mr Justice Underhill has now completed his review. The Rules have been re-drafted from scratch in an attempt to make them more straight forward and accessible. The new rules include the following key proposed changes to Tribunal procedure:

  • The ET1 claim and ET3 response forms have been redrafted although the revised forms have not yet been made available so we do not yet know what changes have been made.
  • After a claim has been issued and the response has been received from the Respondent, an initial sift stage shall be introduced. The claim will be reviewed by an employment judge to consider whether or not the claim or the response should be struck-out and what directions are needed going forward.
  • Case management discussions and pre-hearing reviews will be combined and will simply be referred to as “preliminary hearings”.
  • Tribunals will be able to set timetables for oral evidence and submissions and shall be able to enforce those timetables.
  • It is proposed that when a party withdraws their claim, it will not longer be necessary for other party to apply to get the claim dismissed.

The new rules therefore introduce some welcome changes to the tribunal procedure, for example the removal of the need to apply for dismissal of a claim following withdrawal. Further, the sift stage may also be beneficial as it may help move claims along more quickly by removing other, unmeritorious, claims at an early stage. However there is also an argument that, given the lack of judicial resources and delays already facing Tribunals, adding another stage of review could in fact just cause further delays for parties.

We are told that formal consultation of Mr Justice Underhill’s review will follow "later this year" but the timetable for the implementation of the new rules and recommendations is still unclear. It shall therefore be a matter of watching this space.

For further information please contact Gemma Burnham on 01604 233233 or on gemmaburnham@hewitsons.com

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