BEIS proposals to better equip the employment tribunal for current and future challenges – Law Society response

The proposals

At the beginning of July the government wrote to us asking for our views on a number of proposals to improve the running of employment tribunals. The proposals included:

  • asking whether they should consider raising all time limits to six months
  • how best to manage multiple cases
  • whether giving further autonomy to caseworkers would help quicken decision making while also maintaining confidence in how employment tribunals operate

Our view

  • We strongly support the Law Commission’s proposal to raise the time limit for bringing all claims to the employment tribunal to within six months.
  • The different limitation periods often cause confusion especially where parties are not legally represented.
  • There should only be one test for deciding whether a time limit can be extended.
  • We favour the just and equitable extension as it gives judges the right level of discretion when considering reasons why a time limit has not been met.
  • There is a need to assess the ET rules, as they apply to multiple claims.
  • We agree that giving further autonomy to case workers could have benefits, but it is essential that if there is a dispute about a decision a caseworker makes then the matter is escalated to a judge.

What this means for solicitors

Since employment tribunal fees were abolished in 2017, the number of claims has increased substantially, without the same increase in the resources needed to be able to deliver justice promptly.

The backlog currently stands at just over 40,000 and cases are often listed for hearing more than 12 months from when the request was first made, while more complex claims can take as much as two years to get a judgment. This slows access to justice.

Next steps

We'll continue to lobby the government to improve the workings of the employment tribunals, and for to to be properly resourced.