New legislation aimed at reducing the backlog of 45,000 employment tribunal cases is to be introduced next month. The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Early Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 will come into force on 8th October 2020 with further changes taking effect from 1st December 2020.
The changes aim to increase the flexibility in the employment tribunal system by maximising the capacity to hear claims through greater use of virtual hearings and improving the process of progressing claims.
Currently, Employment Tribunal hearings are being listed for 2022 due to the backlog and since March the number of outstanding cases in the tribunal has grown by 26%. This figure is expected to increase further due to increasing numbers of redundancies as the furlough scheme comes to an end. The changes aim to ensure the tribunal system is better able to cope with an increased caseload and enable workers and businesses to receive quick and fair resolutions to disputes.
From 8th October 2020, non-employment judges will be permitted to sit in employment tribunals in certain circumstances if they meet suitability criteria.
Legal officers, who don’t need to be legally qualified, will also be allowed to carry out administrative tasks currently performed by employment judges. These tasks include:
The new rules also aim to reduce the need for physical hearings by allowing more virtual hearings to take place and multiple claimants and respondents will be able to use the same forms when making claims.
If an individual wishes to make a claim to an employment tribunal about a workplace dispute they must inform Acas and complete the mandatory Acas early conciliation procedure. Once the early conciliation procedure has concluded, Acas will provide an early conciliation certificate to use to confirm this.
Currently, the early conciliation period is up to one month, which can be extended by 2 weeks if you’re close to an agreement. However, from 1st December 2020, the early conciliation period will be set at 6 weeks to enable parties to have the maximum amount of time available at the outset. There will no longer be an option to increase this. Acas will also be given greater flexibility in handling minor errors on claim forms during the 6 weeks, by contacting claimants to correct errors or collect missing information in an early conciliation form.
The Hegarty employment law team are experienced in dealing with all types of employment issues. Whatever your situation, we can help.