The Presidents of the employment tribunals in England and Wales and in Scotland (the ‘Presidents’) have published their roadmap detailing what we can expect in terms of the listing and conducting of hearings in the months ahead.
Review of previous Practice Direction
The Presidents reviewed their Joint Direction first issued on the 19 March 2020 for the second time on 29 May 2020. The Direction remains in its current form, meaning all hearings listed to commence on or after 29 June 2020, unless already postponed as a result of a case management hearing, will remain listed. Where cases haven’t been postponed, the parties will be contacted by the tribunal to discuss arrangements for how best to conduct the hearing.
New road map published
The Presidents have also published their road map which sets out a broad outline on what we can expect over the coming months in terms of the listing and hearing of employment tribunal cases.
The roadmap is divided into 4 phases:
It is anticipated there will be increased numbers of tribunal staff available and the focus will continue to be on remotely conducted case management hearings, judicial mediations and priority hearings. Hearings will continue to take place via phone, but there will be an increase in video hearings using the Cloud Video Platform (CVP) where appropriate.
It is unlikely that any in-person hearings will take place in June, apart from in exceptional circumstances whilst risk assessments of Tribunal buildings continue.
Some standard-track cases (unfair dismissal cases) will be held remotely using the CVP. Where possible and appropriate those standard track cases which were listed to take place between late March and the end of June, but which lost their allocated hearing dates due to COVID-19, will be listed for July and August.
Where safe to do so and depending on staffing levels, some in-person hearings will begin for short-track cases (claims for unpaid money such as wages, holiday pay, redundancy pay, notice pay etc) and preliminary hearings.
It is unlikely that open track cases (complaints about discrimination or whistleblowing) will be heard, but the training of non-legal members in the use of the CVP will begin.
More open track cases will be heard using the CVP, especially those of shorter duration. There will be a small number of in-person hearings as well as hybrid hearings (where some of those involved attend in person whilst others attend remotely via the CVP).
This will be a period of review and consolidation to assess how arrangements have gone so far and the public health guidance currently in place.
The road map acknowledges that its likely different parts of Great Britain will progress at different paces and there may also be matters out with their control that alter the path set out. However, the road map provides welcome guidance on what tribunal users can expect over the coming months.
New Practice Direction on remote hearings expected
It is expected that Practice Directions will be issued shortly covering a range of matters in relation to remote hearings, such as how they will be conducted, the expectations of parties / representatives and public access to the hearings.