Employment tribunal rule changes aim to increase capacity and cut delays

The Government has announced some significant changes to the employment tribunal rules of procedure, which will take effect on 8 October. There will also be two changes to the early conciliation rules, applying from 1 December.

The detailed changes are set out in new regulations which were published on 18 September. Overall, the aim is to increase judicial capacity to help cut delays and to make it easier to hold remote hearings. In addition, some administrative rules have been simplified in the hope that there will be fewer other obstacles in the way of progressing claims through the system.

The main changes to the employment tribunal rules of procedure are as follows:

  • Deployment of judges: the amendments allow more flexible deployment of other judges to sit in the employment tribunal, who will not necessarily be employment specialists.
  • Legal officers: the rule changes will allow many straightforward applications (for example for an extension of time to comply with a case management order, or to amend a claim or response) to be heard by a legal officer, if this is authorised by a practice direction. The relevant party will be able to apply for any such decision to be reconsidered by an employment judge. Legal officers will be appointed by the Lord Chancellor and it appears will not need to hold formal legal qualifications.
  • Multiple claimants/respondents: the rules defining when multiple claimants can use the same claim form will be relaxed. There will also be a similar relaxation in relation to response forms.
  • Rejection of claims: the rules about rejecting claim forms because the early conciliation number is wrong will be relaxed. There are similar changes in relation to errors in the name or address of the claimant or respondent.
  • Early listing: it will possible for tribunals to list claims before the deadline for responding, as long as the hearing date is not sooner than 14 days after the response is due.
  • Remote hearings: the rules about inspection of witness statements will be changed so that these do not need to be available in real time. The requirements about the parties and members of public being able to see witnesses “as seen by the tribunal” will also be relaxed.

The changes to the early conciliation rules are as follows:

  • Correction of mistakes: ACAS will be able to contact the claimant to correct errors in the early conciliation form or to obtain additional information at any point during the early conciliation period.
  • Length of EC period: this has been extended to six weeks, in place of the current four week period plus a possible two week extension.

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