The long-awaited new version of the Employment Tribunal rules will come into force on 29 July 2013 – the same day that tribunal fees are to be introduced.
While the technical detail of the rules may be of more interest to lawyers than others, there are some important shifts in emphasis which all employment tribunal users – claimants and employers – should be aware of.
Employment Judges will now have the power to do a paper sift of cases when they come in, to decide whether they disclose a viable claim and take action accordingly.
A rule introduced last year which directs that witness statements should usually be taken as read at hearings has already cut down the length of time it takes to deal with cases. There will be further powers within the new rules for Judges to limit the amount of time spent on giving evidence, cross-examination and closing speeches. All of these changes should allow tribunal cases to be dealt with more efficiently. That is important for both parties – for example, it has been estimated that the average cost to employers of defending any employment tribunal proceedings is £8,500.
The new rules are to be supplemented by guidance from the President of Employment Tribunals designed to encourage good practice and consistency across the various tribunal regions. At present there are quite wide variations in practice.
And what about the very large number of tribunal awards that go unpaid every year? Beware – interest will now start to be added on all awards that are not paid within 14 days.