The Presidents of the employment tribunals in England and Wales and Scotland (the 'Presidents') have published a joint road map detailing progress on the modernisation of employment tribunals and the default format for different types of hearing in 2022-23.
Review of the previous year
The Presidents acknowledged the long waiting times in some parts of the country and difficulties with the roll out of the new case management system introduced by HM Courts and Tribunal Service ('HMCTS') in 2021. However, they noted that the level of service being delivered has improved, partly as a result of the recruitment of legal officers in 2021 and 150 new employment judges.
The Presidents confirmed that the HMCTS reform programme is underway. The aim of the programme is to modernise tribunal procedures by converting the long standing paper-based processes into a digital system. Parties and their representatives will be able to access their case information through a specially designed portal. All things going well the portal will become the primary means of communication with the tribunal and allow for automated updates.
The HMCTS also intends to replace the Cloud Video Platform with the Video Hearings service during 2022.
The majority of hearings across Great Britain are still taking place on a fully remote basis. It is recognised that the picture varies across different regions of the UK, based on the number of outstanding claims for each, availability of hearing facilities and staff, and quality of I.T resources.
Although the Presidents' view remains that "justice is best experienced by the vast majority of individual litigants in a face-to-face environment", video hearings are to continue in some cases to tackle the backlog, as outlined in the table below. The aim is, however to eventually reduce their use for all but the most straightforward hearings.
The default format for different types of hearings
The default position from 1 April 2022 is as follows:
|Preliminary hearings listed in private for case management purposes
|Telephone or video - this is likely to become permanent.
|Preliminary hearings in public to determine a straightforward preliminary issue (e.g. time limits on an unfair dismissal case)
|Video - also likely to become permanent.
|Preliminary hearings in public to determine complex preliminary points requiring more detailed evidence (e.g. the application of TUPE, whether a person is disabled for Equality Act purposes, employment status
|Greater use of in-person hearings, subject to local resources.
|Preliminary hearings to consider an application to strike out or for a deposit order
|Video - likely to become permanent.
|Applications for interim relief
|Video - likely to become permanent.
|Video or telephone - likely to become permanent.
|Final hearings of short track claims (e.g. unpaid wages, notice, holiday pay, redundancy pay)
|Video (unless significant disputed evidence where there will be greater use of in-person hearings, subject to local resources).
|Final hearings of standard track claims (unfair dismissal)
|This will vary depending on the region. In most areas there will be greater use of in-person hearings. Video hearings will continue in areas with significant backlog (e.g. London, South East).
|Final hearings for open track claims (discrimination and whistleblowing)
|In-person where possible.
The Presidents emphasised that the above defaults will operate as a guide for listing purposes only. It will remain open for any judge to depart from the guidance if the features of a claim support doing so. Parties can also apply to the tribunal for a different approach, as they have always been able to do.
For further information or advice, please get in touch with Brodies Employment and Immigration team. Workbox by Brodies subscribers can find practical guidance on tribunal claims on our Tribunal Claims and ACAS pages.