The introduction of new Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure

A new statutory instrument has been laid before Parliament this week by Business Minister Paul Scully which amends and reforms the current Employment Tribunal rules of procedure.

The proposals are set out in the new Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) ( Amendment) Regulations 2020.

The Government wants to boost capacity in the Employment Tribunal system and provide quicker outcomes for both employers and employees at a time where we are seeing increasing caseloads in the system.

The Government aims to spend £80 million of funding and provide an additional 1,600 staff to reduce delays and to deliver justice in the Employment Tribunal which has been severely affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

There are a number of changes that will be made to the Rules of Procedure which will affect the ACAS Early Conciliation process and which come into effect on 1st December 2020. The changes also relate to the use of legal officers and the cross-deployment of Judges which come into effect on 8th October 2020. The proposed changes are set out as follows:-

1. To allow more flexibility around virtual hearings and to roll out improvements in technology to cater for remote hearings. At present the details are sketchy and are not clear from the press release. All it suggests is that there will be a need to reduce the number of physical hearings in the future and minimise the need to travel and incur travel costs;

2. To set up more temporary Nightingale Courts;

3. Non-employment Judges will be appointed into the employment tribunal system if they have certain criteria that is met. It is not yet clear what criteria need to be met;

4. The ACAS Early Conciliation process is also being amended to allow for greater flexibility in handling minor errors. The Early Conciliation period will also increase to six weeks (compared to the current one month) with the potential to extend by a further two weeks;

5. Legal Officers (who will not necessarily need to be legally qualified) will also be appointed to undertake some of the administrative tasks that are currently performed by Employment Judges. They will for example consider the acceptance or rejection of claim forms, extend time for an ET3 to be issued or to extend time for compliance with case management orders, allowing permission to amend claims and responses where both parties consent, ordering further information, and dismissing claims by consent upon withdrawal;

6. The Rules of Procedure will be amended to allow multiple Claimants and Respondents to use the same ET forms and ACAS Early Conciliation forms to avoid multiple Early Conciliation certificates being issued for the same dispute. This will minimise repetition and save time and costs.

As with all these things the devil is in the detail which will become clearer in time.

Steven Eckett is a Partner and Head of Employment at Meaby & Co LLP. If you have any questions relating to the Employment Tribunal and its procedures then contact him on 020 7703 5034 or seckett@meaby.co.uk