In July 2012 draft new Employment Tribunal rules were published as a result of Lord Justice Underhill's review of the current rules. The Government then consulted on these draft rules and asked Lord Justice Underhill, along with his task force, to amend the draft rules where appropriate in light of the results to the consultation.

Yesterday the Coalition published The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013 (the "Rules") and the final shape of the Rules can now be seen. The Rules will apply to any claims where the respondent receives the claim form on or after 29 July 2013. This is the same date that Tribunal fees also come into force.

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

  • An initial sift stage for both claims and responses;
  • New ET1 and ET3 forms;
  • 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  • Removal of the requirement for respondents to write to the Tribunal for a claim to be dismissed once a claimant has withdrawn the claim;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.

When the draft rules were published they suggested that a response to a claim (i.e. an ET3 form) would need to be submitted by 5pm on the last day of the deadline, as opposed to the current time of midnight. There was disquiet expressed over this change and the relevant rule (Rule 4) has now been changed to provide that "Unless otherwise specified by the Tribunal, an act required by these Rules, a practice direction or an order of a Tribunal to be done on or by a particular day may be done at any time before midnight on that day." Therefore the current rule is maintained so that ET3 forms must still be received by the Tribunal within 28 days of the respondent receiving the claim and by midnight on the 28th day.

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