Summary and implications
As a result of a judicial listing policy which has now been successfully piloted and rolled out nationwide, all claims for unfair dismissal only will be listed for a one day hearing to take place within 16 weeks of a claim being issued.
This means that, on receiving a claim, you will need to pool your resources and be extremely organised from the start. Unless you make a prompt (and justified) application to vary the case management orders that the tribunal now sends out with the notice of claim, you can expect to be meeting exacting deadlines every fortnight, and exchanging witness statements 10 weeks after receiving the claim.
Large employers who receive a high volume of claims may also need to review their processes generally to ensure that HR, legal, and the business are all aware of the need (and are in a position) to act promptly and proactively, for example, in searching for documents and diarising witness meetings. This timetable will also, of course, focus the mind on the possibility of early settlement.
The standard orders in the case of unfair dismissal are as follows:
- Both parties to consider if a one day hearing is long enough and, if not, give reasons in writing with their time estimate – on receipt of the notice of claim.
- Response due as normal – 28 days from receipt of claim.
- Claimant to set out what remedy he is seeking and details of mitigation to date – on the date the response is due.
- Disclosure of documents – two weeks later.
- Employer to prepare copies of agreed bundle – two weeks later.
- Exchange of witness statements – two weeks after that.
- Preparation of statement of issues (only where both parties are represented) – one week before the hearing.
While meeting these deadlines will present a real challenge for all concerned, the new timetable should help employers dispose more cost effectively with the more straightforward claims, as well as assisting the tribunals with clearing their backlog.