The Law Society suggests changes to Employment Tribunals to make them fairer for all
Employment Tribunals (ETs) are becoming an increasingly complicated system that strike fear into the hearts of employers and employees alike.
Many have identified the problems with ETs, but solutions are harder to come by. Happily, The Law Society, following comments in June 2014 from David Latham, formerly President of the Employment Tribunals (England and Wales), have set out a discussion document which explains their proposed changes to ETS.
What’s wrong with Tribunals?
The Law Society identified a number of problems with the current tribunal system. Cost is an issue for both claimants and respondents. As expected, the number of cases brought to the ET has decreased since the introduction of fees in 2013. The fees were devised in part to discourage petty claims being brought, and to ensure only legitimate cases were heard. However, The Law Society suggest these fees are proving a barrier-to-entry for some claimants who deserve to have a case heard. Fees and costs surrounding ETs are also a strain for smaller businesses, who may not have access to the right advice or representation on limited budgets.
The legalistic approach of the ETs has also been criticised, with simple and straight-forward cases becoming wrapped up in debates, discussions and unnecessary waiting.
The choice of forum for ET cases can also prove confusing, with unrepresented clients unsure of which best suits their cases, again causing unnecessary disruption.
So what are The Law Society suggesting?
The Law Society have suggested revising the ET system into a ‘single jurisdiction’ with four levels:
Level 1 – Document-based: this would apply to cases where reviewing documents will make up the decision (i.e. unpaid wages).
Level 2 – Judicial inquisitional approach: this would encompass straight-forward cases (like redundancy pay) which need further investigation.
Level 3 – Neutral evaluation and ADR: these cases, similar to those that make up the majority of current ET cases.
Level 4 – Civil litigation principles: these cases which are currently heard in the civil court.
For ease of use, The Law Society are suggesting a single point-of-entry with a ‘gatekeeper’ allocating cases to the appropriate level.
When can we expect to see changes?
This initial document is purely sparking the initial discussions, and further debates and discussions are expected following its publication.
It could still be a little while before we see any changes!