Last month we reported on the Minutes from the 41st Employment Tribunals National User Group meeting, where the backlog of cases in the Employment Tribunals, caused by the abolishment of Tribunal fees in 2017 and Covid-19, was discussed.
A copy of our D-Brief can be found here.
The Government has since taken action and has brought in new regulations amending the Employment Tribunal Rules to reduce bureaucracy and increase capacity.
Changes to the Employment Tribunal Procedure
Of interest, from 8 October 2020, the following changes are in force:
- Certain non-employment judges will be able to hear employment claims
- Legal officers will be permitted to carry out a range of case management functions including determining applications to extend the time to respond to a claim and comply with case management orders. Legal officers will also be permitted to determine applications requesting additional information about another party’s claim, placing employers in a better position to defend their position. Where a party is unhappy with a decision made by a legal officer, that party may apply in writing to the Tribunal for the decision to be considered afresh by an Employment Judge.
- Multiple claimants will be able to use the same claim form if their claims give rise to common or related issues of fact or law, or if it is otherwise reasonable for their claims to be made on a single claim form.
- Judges will have a wider discretion to accept claim forms with incorrect ACAS EC certificate numbers and errors with names and addresses of parties.
- Cases that have been dismissed by withdrawal by the Claimant will no longer be entered onto the public register of decisions meaning that employers who settle claims will not appear on the publicly accessible and searchable database (and serial complainants will be unidentifiable).
Changes to ACAS Conciliation
The ACAS Early Conciliation requires a prospective Claimant to notify ACAS before making a claim at the Employment Tribunal. Following notification, ACAS will liaise with both the Claimant and their employer/ex-employer to determine whether they wish to conciliate. Previously, if the parties wished to conciliate, they would have one month to do so. This period could be extended by 14 days on agreement by the parties. Under the new regulations, the early conciliation period has been extended to six weeks, and the option to agree to an extension of 14 days has been removed. The new regulations mean that there will be a standard six week early conciliation period in the Tribunal’s hope that fewer claims will be brought. This change will come into force on 1 December 2020.
Hopefully these changes will mean that the Tribunal’s backlog of claims will be reduced and that applications will be dealt with quicker than they have been of late. We also see the new standard six week early conciliation period as a positive step, which will hopefully lead to an increase in the settlement of claims.
If you would like any advice on how these changes may impact your claims, please contact any member of the team.