On the 29thJuly 2013, the revised Employment Tribunal Rules/Procedure come into force. These have been given an overhaul in an attempt to make them more user friendly, increase flexibility and to promote certainty and consistency.
The first change is that the overriding objective, which underpins all claims before the Employment Tribunal, has been refined to include the objectives of avoiding unnecessary formality and seeking flexibility in the proceedings. The overriding objective explicitly now requires the parties to cooperate with each other. This sounds like a given but from my experience having it explicit in the rules will help with parties who are not engaging with the process.
Case management orders and pre-hearing reviews have been removed and these are now combined in a preliminary hearing which will deal with all the issues. This change will inevitably lead to more preparation time for the hearing but may result in the narrowing of issues or the focusing of minds at an earlier stage. These preliminary hearings even have the capacity in the rules to be converted to a final hearing but only if neither party would be materially prejudiced.
Another welcome change from an employers’ perspective, will be the more proactive approach to striking out claims (and even responses which is of course less welcome). The new rules identify more occasions on which a claim may be rejected or struck out and decisions to accept the claim can be made by a Judge on paper unless the Claimant requests a hearing. A hearing is no longer required before a strike out provided the affected party is given a reasonable opportunity to make representations.
There is also a more formal approach to promote dispute resolution. There is a rule to encourage the parties to use mediation, ACAS or other settlement avenues wherever practicable and appropriate. The role of the Judge is central in this mediation as they can act as a mediator in the case. Appearing reasonable will be paramount so refusing to mediate on a matter should be exercised with caution.
It is a new dawn for employment lawyers but the changes on the whole are welcomed if not least of all for their simplicity of language and common sense additions.
Sarah King, Consultant Solicitor
Posted on Tuesday, 23rd July 2013