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The Law Society – Tables Potential Reforms To The Way In Which The Courts Hear Employment Cases in England and Wales

In a recent discussion document “Making Tribunals Work for All - Is it time for a single employment jurisdiction?”, the Law Society proposes the following possible reforms based on suggestions made during an address to the Law Society by Employment Judge David Latham, outgoing President of the Employment Tribunals of England and Wales:

  • A single jurisdiction for all Employment Law cases. Currently, some employment claims are brought in the Employment Tribunal whilst others lie within the jurisdiction of the Civil courts.
  • It is proposed that cases could be allocated to one of four tracks, with the most straight forward cases being dealt with on paper and the most complex cases being heard under civil litigation principles.
  • The possible new structure may include a single point of entry.
  • The new structure would promote Alternative Dispute Resolution ADR.
  • The paper also moots the possibility of Employment Judges also hearing Equality Act cases, involving the provision of goods and services.
  • The paper suggests that the Employment Tribunal system has not evolved in line with changes in Employment Law including the increasing complexities of employment law and the increasing formality of the procedural rules. The jurisdiction of the Employment Tribunal has increased greatly since the establishment of the Industrial Tribunals a number of decades ago.
  • The paper suggests the possibility that if costs savings could be made in relation to the way in which Employment Cases were dealt with and with an increasing emphasis on ADR, then the Government may be able to review the fee structure in the interest of ensure access to justice.
  • The paper points out that the issue fee of £160 to £250, depending on what sort of case it is and the hearing fee of £230 to £950 appears to have resulted in a 60% drop in claims to the Employment Tribunal across the board.
  • The paper points to a drop of 83% in claims of sexual discrimination and 77% in equal pay claims between 2013/2014 and 2014/2015.
  • Research by the Citizens Advice Bureau has found that four out of five prospective claimants are put off by fees.
  • The paper also acknowledges the cost to business, where employers are settling claims, despite the fact that in 50% of those cases they were advised that they would have won a final hearing.
  • The paper proposes an increasing reliance on technology to make the system more efficient.

For further details contact Louise Purcell, Senior Associate Solicitor

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