Law Society calls for Employment Tribunal Reforms

Thursday 10th September 2015

The Law Society has this week published a discussion document called “Making Employment Tribunals Work For All”, which proposes a number of ways in which the Employment Tribunal system can be improved to benefit both employers and employees. The Law Society thinks that the current system is “not working as well as it could” and that fees have created a “barrier” to genuine claimants.

The main proposals are:

  • That there is a single jurisdiction in which all employment cases could be heard. Whilst some cases can currently only be heard in the Employment Tribunal, other claims (such as breach of contract or unlawful deductions from wages) can be heard in either the County/High Court or the Employment Tribunal. The Law Society believes this choice of jurisdiction can be confusing for unrepresented claimants;
  • That employment cases are dealt with at one of four levels, depending upon complexity and value:
    • Level 1 – Document-based decision making – for simple and straightforward cases, such as unpaid wages, which can be disposed of without a hearing;
    • Level 2 – Judicial inquisitorial approach – for straightforward cases such as redundancy payments or failure to collectively consult, where some further investigation is required;
    • Level 3 – Encourage early neutral evaluation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) – this would include the majority of claims that are currently heard in the Employment Tribunal (for example, unfair dismissal and discrimination);
    • Level 4 – Cases heard under civil litigation principles – for example, restrictive covenant cases, which are presently usually heard in the High Court.
  • The benefits of ADR should be promoted and the fee for judicial mediation should be removed.
  • Views are invited as to whether the a single employment jurisdiction should adjudicate in goods and services claims under the Equality Act.

The Law Society has requested any comments on the discussion document by 30 October 2015.

Clare Moore from Gordons says “Any proposals that aim to simplify the Employment Tribunal process and to deal with cases on a more proportionate and cost-effective basis ought to be welcomed. In the event that the proposals are implemented in their current form, it will be interesting to see whether, in reality, there would be any real change as to how the vast majority of disputed cases are dealt with”.