In late 2011 the Government asked Mr Justice Underhill to conduct a wholesale review of the rules governing employment tribunal procedure. Among other things, the Government wanted to ensure that cases were being dealt with proportionately and that claims with little or no prospect of success could be dealt with robustly.
Following a consultation period, the new rules have now been published and will come into force for claims lodged on or after 29 July 2013. Particular points to note include:
- The introduction of a formal "sift" stage after receipt of the claim and response. If an Employment Judge considers that either the claim or the response has no reasonable prospect of success, he or she can order that the claim/ response be struck out, subject to representations from the claimant/ respondent as the case may be.
- The tribunal will be obliged to strike a claim out if the relevant fee (either the application fee or the hearing fee) or application for a remission of the fee is not received by a relevant date.
- When a claim is withdrawn by a claimant, it will generally be dismissed (meaning that the same complaint cannot be brought again) without the respondent having to make an application asking for this to happen.
- Costs in excess of £20,000 can be awarded after a detailed costs consideration by an Employment Judge. In the past, costs orders of more than £20,000 had to be dealt with in the County Court.
- The circumstances in which it will be possible to bring a claim against an employer not based in Great Britain are spelled out more clearly.
Respondent employers will welcome the new "sift" procedure if it makes it more likely that unmeritorious claims will be struck out at an early stage. Much will depend on how "robustly" Employment Judges exercise their new powers.