Employment Tribunal Rules
Following our earlier report into the introduction of the Fees Structure, applicable on all claims lodged on or after 29th July 2013, the following is a brief outline of some of the changes to the rules governing Employment Tribunals (in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland), which also came into force on 29th July 2013:
Claims will not be accepted if they are not submitted with the relevant fee (as previously outlined). Where a claim progresses to a hearing, if the appropriate hearing fee is not submitted by the given deadline (either in the Hearing Notice or in a second notice issued subsequently), then the claim will automatically be dismissed. This applies equally to other application fees and the fee for judicial mediation.
Elements of the rules around time-limits will be relaxed; allowing employers to request an extension to the 28-day limit for responding to claims, even after that time-limit has expired (except in ‘counter-claims’ – see below).
An initial review of all claims and responses will be undertaken by an Employment Judge; the purpose of this will be to ensure that there is an arguable complaint and defence which falls within the jurisdiction of the Employment Tribunal. Where it is felt that one or other party has little prospect of success, the Employment Judge will write to the party with the weaker case asking them to explain why their claim/response should not be dismissed. If the party responds, this may result in a preliminary case being held so that it can be considered in greater detail and where no such response is received by the deadline, the claim/response will automatically be struck out.
‘Deposit orders’ may now relate to a particular allegation or argument as opposed to applying to the whole claim.
Tribunals will be able to limit verbal evidence, cross-examination and submissions within the hearing.
Case Management discussions, which can currently take place in person or on the telephone as directed by the Employment Judge, will now be able to be conducted via e-mail.
The current cap of £20,000 which applies to costs that can be awarded by a Tribunal will be removed.
In claims brought by employees of a ‘breach of contract’ by their employer, the time-limit for an employer to issue a counter-claim will be reduced from 6-weeks to 28-days; they will have to set out this counter-claim in response to the claim and will be subject to a fee of £160.
Where a claim is withdrawn, it will automatically be dismissed without any further action being necessary unless it is specifically stated by the claimant that they wish to ‘reserve the right to bring a new claim in the future’ and the Employment Tribunal is satisfied that there would be a legitimate reason for bringing a new claim or if the Employment Tribunal believes that a dismissal of the claim would not be in the ‘interest of justice’.
Both sides will be encouraged, where it is practicable and appropriate to do so, to facilitate the use of ACAS, Judicial or other mediation in an attempt to resolve their dispute by agreement without recourse to a Tribunal.