The employment tribunals in Scotland, England and Wales recently confirmed via a Presidential Direction that there would be no in-person hearings from Monday 23 March 2020. In addition, Employment Appeal Tribunal  (EAT) hearings are to be postponed.

Employment tribunal hearings

All hearings, listed to commence on or before Friday 26 June 2020,  which the parties would ordinarily have been expected to attend at a tribunal hearing centre will now be converted to case management hearings.

These case management hearings will be conducted by telephone or other electronic means on the first day of the originally allocated hearing and will be an opportunity for the parties to discuss how best to proceed under the current circumstances.

For hearings fixed for more than one day, the advice is to proceed on the basis that the remaining days have been cancelled.

In-person hearings listed to start on or after 29 June 2020 are remaining listed for the time being. The measures will be subject to ongoing review and further direction will be issued in due course.

EAT hearings

The President of the EAT has announced the postponement of all hearings, of all kinds, in the EAT both in London and Edinburgh, which were listed to take place up to and including 15 April 2020.

There will be no hearings conducted remotely via telephone or other electronic means. Directions may however be issued using remote communication by the President or a Judge of the EAT in a particular case where deemed necessary for urgent reasons.

Time Limits & Notices of Appeal

The time limits for instituting appeals and requirements for the proper and effective institution of an appeal remain unchanged and the normal EAT rules and Practice Direction should be followed. However, during this time Notices of Appeal and accompanying documents must be sent by email.

The President has highlighted that telephone enquiries will not be responded to immediately and you should expect it to take longer for communications to be answered during this time.

When hearings resume they will initially be exclusively conducted by telephone or video link.

The measures taken as a result of the coronavirus crisis are subject to change depending on the latest government guidance. An update to the measures taken in respect of EAT hearings is anticipated before 10 April 2020.

Practical guidance issued in relation to employment tribunal proceedings

Guidance has also been issued which took effect from 18 March 2020 in connection with the conduct of employment tribunal proceedings during the coronavirus crisis.

The guidance strongly encourages the use of electronic communication where possible and where doing so would not be contrary to the over-riding objective of the tribunal. This includes submitting applications electronically and making documents available electronically to accommodate the fact that tribunal Judges may be working remotely.

The guidance notes that Judges will bear in mind, where appropriate, whether some types of claim which would ordinarily require to be heard by a full (three person) tribunal could potentially, with both parties consent, be heard by a Judge and one member or a Judge alone and will discuss this option with both parties.

However, it is acknowledged that there are a number of constraints on the employment tribunal service at this time, including the fact that a number of tribunal offices are not equipped for video conferencing and that a number of employment tribunal hearings require to be conducted in public in terms of the Rules of procedure.

It is emphasised by the employment tribunal Presidents that parties are expected to co-operate with the guidance as part of their obligation to assist in the furthering of the overriding objective of the tribunal.

For further information or advice, please speak to your usual Brodies contact.

Lynsey Smith
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