The Government has confirmed that it is to take steps to limit the ability of parties to employment tribunal proceedings to postpone hearings. From 1 April 2016 the following changes will be made to the Employment Tribunal Rules:
• Where a party has been granted two previous postponements of hearings in the same case, any further applications by that party for a postponement will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
• In any event, if any application for postponement is made less than seven days before the hearing, it will only be allowed if there are exceptional circumstances and, if granted, the tribunal will be obliged to consider making a costs order against the party who asked for the postponement.
The government consulted on these changes in 2014. In its response to that consultation, published last week, the Government says there will be some exceptions to the new rules. The exceptions are likely to include postponements aimed at giving the parties an opportunity to settle the claim, and those brought about by another party’s (or the Tribunal’s) acts or omissions. It seems that an exception will also be made for last minute postponements requested for reasons of ill health related to an existing long term health condition or disability. Further details will be revealed when the legislation is published in the coming weeks.