In a move aimed at reducing the number of postponements in Employment Tribunal proceedings a new regime has now been introduced that applies to all cases presented to the Tribunal from 1 April 2016. The new rules now state that:
- A party that has been granted two previous postponements of hearings in the same case, will only be granted further applications for a postponement in exceptional circumstances.
- Any application for a postponement presented less than seven days before the date of the hearing, or made at the hearing, will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
- Employment Tribunals will be obliged to consider making a costs order or a preparation time order against a party that is granted a late postponement i.e. where a postponement is applied for less than seven days before the hearing.
Applications caused by an act or omission of the Employment Tribunal or where the parties agree the need for a postponement in order to facilitate a settlement are excluded from the new rules.
Employment Tribunals already had the power to refuse applications for postponement and to make costs orders in the case of late applications so these new rules are unlikely to have a huge impact. It is, nevertheless, worth being aware of the new provisions as employers may be able to use them to their advantage in appropriate circumstances. More generally, the case management provisions in the Employment Tribunal rules can often be used proactively in an employer’s favour during proceedings. It is always worth staying on top of proceedings and keeping a strategic view throughout – there are often opportunities to use the provisions in the Tribunal rules to tactical advantage.