On 31 March 2021 the Presidents of Employment Tribunals released an updated Road Map for 2021 – 2022. In that document they share the plans underway for changes to the Employment Tribunal system. The road map has been prompted by the pandemic and the effect this has had on the Employment Tribunal system and in particular the significant backlog in the London and South East regions.
As expected, there is a great emphasis on the role of video hearings for the next few years and the default position for 2021 – 2021 is as follows
- Preliminary hearings for case management purposes will default to telephone or video;
- Preliminary hearings to determine a preliminary issued (e.g. time limits, employment status) will default to video;
- Preliminary hearings to consider an application to strike out or for a deposit order will default to video;
- Applications for interim relief will default to video;
- Judicial mediations will default to telephone or video;
- Final hearings for some claims (unpaid wages, notice monies, holiday pay, redundancy pay etc.) will default to video;
- Final hearings for other claims, usually less straightforward (e.g., unfair dismissal) will vary. In most parts of Britain as requirements for social distancing are removed, there will be a gradual return to hearings in person. London and the South East, however, as the regions with the biggest backlog, will default to video as a means of reducing the backlog by using the virtual region (see below);
- Final hearings for discrimination and whistleblowing, which are more complex, will vary. In most parts of Britain, they will be in person. However, in London and the South East the parties should expect to see a greater reliance on video including in hybrid forms – where, for example, the ET panel and the legal representatives will be in person but the parties, the claimant and respondent witnesses, will attend by video link;
- Other hearings which are listed to deal with applications for reconsideration or costs will default to video.
A new case management software system for the ET’s is being rolled out. It is referred to as the Employment Case Management (“ECM”) system and replaces the old system of Ethos which regularly failed. It is hoped that it will be fully implemented by the end of May 2021. ECM will be much better equipped to allow remote access by staff working in the ETs.
In mid April 2021 16 new Legal Officers will start working in the ETs across Britain, they will be mainly involved in case progression and will look at cases in the list to check all correspondence has been answered and that the files are up to date and there are no outstanding issues to be dealt with.
Late in April 2021 the virtual region will be launched. This will consist of 100 or so of existing fee paid Employment Tribunal Judges and will operate alongside the ten existing regions in England and Wales. As the name suggests, it will allow Judges, members and staff to come together by Cloud Video Platform (“CVP”) to hear cases generated throughout the territory. In the first year it will concentrate on the London and South East areas which hold well over half of the outstanding ET case load in Britain.