4 key changes to employment law are coming into force on 29 July:-

  1. new Employment Tribunal rules come into force;
  2. Employment Tribunal fees are being introduced;
  3. Compromise Agreements become Settlement Agreements and new rules are introduced regarding pre-termination discussions; and
  4. Compensatory Award limits are changing.

There is quite a lot to all of this and I plan to do a blog on each of these topics over the next week or so in advance of these changes coming into force on 29 July.

I will kick off with the new Employment Tribunal rules which are the result of a review by Lord Justice Underhill (a former president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal). In July 2012 draft new Employment Tribunal rules were published following Lord Justice Underhill's review of the current rules. The Government then consulted on these draft rules and the draft rules were amended further in light of the results to the consultation.

The Government published The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013 (the "Rules") in May. The Rules will come into force on 29 July 2013 and will apply to all claims from that date irrespective of whether the claim was raised before 29 July 2013. There are two exceptions to this relating to counterclaims and notices of appeal.

The Rules make several important changes to the procedure applicable in Employment Tribunals, some of which are listed below:-

  • A claim will be rejected if it is not accompanied by a fee or fee remission application;
  • A claim will be rejected if it “cannot sensibly be responded to or is otherwise an abuse of process";
  • An initial sift stage for both claims and responses to decide whether a claim or response should be struck out and to decide what case management orders are necessary to get the case ready for a hearing;
  • Relaxation of the rules in relation to making an application to extend the deadline to submit a response;
  • Case management discussions and pre-hearing reviews will be combined into new preliminary hearings;
  • Removal of the requirement for respondents to write to the Tribunal for a claim to be dismissed once a claimant has withdrawn the claim;
  • Relaxation of the procedure for making interlocutory applications such as a request for a documents order;
  • Costs award in excess of £20,000 may be made by the Employment Judge rather than being referred to the Sheriff Court (Scotland) or the County Court (England & Wales).

New draft ET1 and ET3 forms were previously published and it was thought that they would be introduced at the same time as the new rules but the final versions of the revised forms have not been published with the new rules. It is though expected that these will be introduced at some point over the coming months.

Overall the new Employment Tribunal Rules are written in plain English and seek to achieve proportionality, speed and efficiency, simplicity, certainty and consistency.

My view is that, in particular, the sift stage is likely to make a big difference for two reasons:-

  1. a review of every case by an employment judge is likely to result in certain cases being struck out which would otherwise have proceeded under the old rules; and
  2. the requirement for a judge at the sift stage to give case management orders will hopefully mean greater efficiency and ensure that both claimants and respondents have their minds focused at an early stage.