Tribunal procedure changes
Under pressure. Even before the coronavirus pandemic took hold the tribunal system was under immense strain. This was mainly because there was a surge in claims following the removal of tribunal fees. As of September 2020, there was a huge backlog and tribunal hearings across the UK were being listed for 2022 at the earliest.
Change. With the situation only likely to deteriorate, the government has introduced the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 . These make changes to both the existing tribunal procedure and the Acas early conciliation system.
What’s happened? To help clear the backlog, non-employment judges can now be deployed into the tribunal where certain suitability criteria are met. That means a non-employment expert could hear and rule on a potentially complex employment claim. Also, legal officers at the tribunal, who don’t need to be legally qualified at all, may now carry out certain tasks ordinarily performed by employment judges who are always qualified lawyers.
New duties. Legal officers may: (1) accept or reject claim forms (the ET1 ); (2) give permission to amend the ET1 and/or the response form ( ET3 ) where both parties consent; (3) order that further information about a claim be provided; and (4) extend the time limit for the lodging of an ET3 . All of these changes above came into effect on 8 October 2020 .
A longer period. The Acas early conciliation system is also being changed to allow a standard six-week process in all cases, rather than a default minimum one-month period with a possible extension of a further two weeks. This comes into effect on 1 December 2020 .
Tip. If a claim isn’t settled during Acas early conciliation, the tribunal judge will pay close attention to the parties’ conduct during that process. A refusal to engage will generally be viewed as unreasonable.