The Law Society published a document calling for Employment Tribunal Reforms.
The independent professional body for solicitors undertook the review to check whether the Employment Tribunal framework and employment dispute resolution system was meeting the needs of society. We have summarised their proposals and explained the rationale behind them for you.
The review called ‘making employment tribunals work for all’ found that the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees has created a barrier to justice, with the proof being a 60% decrease in the number of cases taken to the Employment Tribunal since June 2013.
The review also says that “the reduction in assistance available from voluntary advice centres, as a result of cuts in legal aid and local authority funding, has also made the decision to bring a claim more difficult.” The Law Society hopes that the reforms they suggest would bring about a restructure of the Employment Tribunal fees regime as it currently stands and create an employment law system that is accessible for everyone.
There have been several significant changes in employment law over recent years, but the Law Society’s view is that the Employment Tribunal has not evolved with these changes.
The Law Society concludes that changing the structure of Employment Tribunals would enable it to better deal with the different types of employment disputes that now exist. To find out who claims at Employment Tribunals and what different types of employment disputes you can claim for read our blog All About Employment Tribunals.
The Law Society suggests the introduction of a Gatekeeper. The gatekeeper will make the Employment Tribunal framework easier to navigate for individuals because they would be the sole point of entry. This should help to make employment disputes less confusing for employees and employers.
It would be the gatekeeper’s job to allocate cases to an appropriate level (one to four) so that they don’t take longer or cost more than is necessary. Cases would be allocated according to their complexity and value within one working day of receiving all the relevant documents.
The most simple and straightforward cases where a judge can make a decision by just looking at documents. Due to the introduction of the Employment Tribunal fees regime many of these types of claims are no longer pursued. By introducing ‘Level 1’, workers on low pay would be able to enforce their statutory rights because it would operate in a cost effective manner.
Examples: unpaid wages, holiday pay.
Straightforward cases that need further investigation requiring a judicial inquisitorial approach. This means that evidence would be submitted before the hearing by both the employee and the employer and then at the hearing both can tell the judge their opinion on the case. Level 2 cases should be short because of the evidence submitted prior to the hearing and because cross-examination of witnesses would not be allowed.
Examples: failure to consult, redundancy payments.
This would make up most of the claims and the approach would be to encourage Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) at an early stage. If ENE and ADR receive better promotion the benefits of solving disputes before going to a hearing will be experienced by more people.
The report highlights the importance of spreading awareness about ENE and ADR. The perceived high cost of ADR needs to be addressed and the perception that taking part in ADR is admitting defeat or less serious way of resolving employment disputes would need to be combated.
The most complicated cases, where cost regimes might apply, that must be heard in the civil court.
Examples: complex employment disputes such as disputes over restrictive covenants.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers are experts in employment law. If you have an employment law issue and wish to speak with an Employment Solicitor you can call us on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we will call you back.