The Employment Tribunal has released information about how it will operate during the current pandemic.
The overriding objective of the Employment Tribunal is to deal with cases in a manner which is both fair and just. Like many organisations, the Employment Tribunal is moving to online modes of working wherever possible, although has acknowledged that there are restrictions in it doing so given availability of equipment, case files not being in a digital format, and the fact that hearings which are required to be conducted in public may pose difficulties.
Overall, the current guidance from the Employment Tribunal is as follows:
It is common for these hearings to be conducted in person where there is a self-represented party. These will now be conducted by telephone for the period of 23 March 2020 to 26 June 2020. The telephone hearing will be confirmed by the Tribunal in writing in due course. The Tribunal may make orders for preparatory work to be done by both parties in advance so that the hearing can proceed as efficiently as possible.
Legal arguments and submissions will generally be made in written format.
It is proposed that these may be able to take place by video or conference call between 23 March 2020 and 26 June 2020. The Tribunal will contact the parties to advise further on this.
Hearings are being converted to preliminary hearings by telephone if they had been due to start before 26 June 2020. The Employment Tribunal will keep parties advised.
These have not yet been adjourned and may be able to proceed. Public updates on timeframes will be reviewed around 29 April 2020 and 29 May 2020. If it will be difficult or impossible for a party to prepare for a hearing in July or August due to social isolation, social distancing, or illness; that party is encouraged to write to the Employment Tribunal explaining the same.
If a hearing was due to take place between 23 March 2020 and 26 June 2020 and directions were made prior to 23 March 2020, any orders due to be completed within this timeframe are suspended. If directions/orders were made at a telephone hearing on or after 23 March 2020, they will stand. Likewise, if the hearing is expected to commence after 26 June 2020, parties should expect that the orders and directions still stand.
In England and Wales, most Employment Tribunal locations will remain open to undertake administrative work.
Matters concerning statutory appeals against prohibition notices, applications for interim relief, and dismissals where an individual has lost accommodation which is related to their employment will be prioritised.
If a regional Employment Tribunal office is closed, claimants can present their claim online or send it by post to the designated address. Email is not an acceptable method of submission.
Hearings in the Employment Appeals Tribunal which were listed to take place up to and on 15 April 2020 have been postponed. Further guidance is expected to be provided in the coming days. It is anticipated that when hearings resume, they will be conducted by telephone, Skype, or video link.
Overall, there is an emphasis on communicating to the Tribunals via email if there are difficulties with attendance or preparation of matters due to COVID-19. Emails may be marked as ‘urgent’ if this is appropriate for the situation.
The Employment Tribunal are looking to list matters now well into the future due to the backlog on claims being postponed throughout April and May. New Claims are likely not to be listed until Spring of 2021. Therefore timescales at the Employment Tribunal remain uncertain but in all likelihood a long way off.
If you would like to discuss an upcoming Employment Tribunal case or have any queries on how the new system will work please contact a member of the Employment Team.
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