In the last of my series of blog posts on the new rules of procedure in the Employment Tribunal, I will be mopping up with any left over provisions not yet highlighted.
Firstly, I have already mentioned the right to have decisions and orders reconsidered. This is new terminology for the Employment Tribunal and replaces the term “review”, practitioners will be more familiar with. Also many lawyers like to have a claim dismissed upon withdrawal. This will now be the default position unless the Claimant expressly reserves the right to bring further claims at the time of withdrawing his/her claim. If the Tribunal believes there is a legitimate reason for the Claimant making this reservation it will not issue a judgment rather the claim will sit as withdrawn on the file.
Sometimes, estimating the time taken for hearings can be difficult particularly where you have a party that is unrepresented or a verbose witness or even an advocate. Yes they do exist! Rule 45 of the new rules allows the Tribunal to impose time limits for the hearing. This is in respect of the time taken to give evidence (although presumably statements will continue to be taken as read as the default position), questioning witnesses and making submissions. When the timer goes off you may be prevented from continuing, having exhausted your slot. This will be quite interesting in practice. Do both sides get equal time irrespective of the length of statements and number of witnesses etc. In practice advocates are often asked for a time estimate for submissions and expected to stick roughly to it but having this for all parts of the hearing will be interesting particularly as it will be more rigid probably. I have previously tried to predict a witness list for a 10 day hearing and the Respondent went way over the time they said they would need blowing the timetable. Being forced to stop at the buzz of the timer may focus minds or result in injustice, only time will tell!
The Tribunal also has the power to assess more claims with a higher costs value. Over time we have seen the increasing use of costs and it will be interesting how these rules fit in with the increased costs culture we are currently in particularly as the Tribunal appears to have more scope to strike out claims without merit at an earlier stage.
It is also worth mentioning that there are now fees for lodging an appeal too at the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Again it will be interesting as to whether this has any impact on the number of appeals lodged. I would suspect we will not see much impact not in comparable terms to impact in the Employment Tribunal.
No doubt I will be blogging in the future on developments and any new cases arising out of the new rules of procedure. Let’s hope that the legacy of the statutory dismissal procedure is not going to be repeated.