Coronavirus and Employment Tribunals
18 March 2020
The coronavirus crisis is affecting many aspects of daily life, and Employment Tribunals are no exception. At present, Employment Tribunals are continuing to operate, but Guidance from the Presidents of the Employment Tribunals has been issued which gives information as to how cases are currently being dealt with.
Unsurprisingly, the Tribunals are trying to encourage parties to deal with matters by telephone or videoconference if possible, particularly preliminary hearings or case management discussions (many case management discussions tended to take place by telephone anyway).
However, telephone/video hearings will not always be suitable. For example, not all Tribunals have the necessary equipment, members of the public may not be equipped to deal with electronic copies of bundles, plus some hearings are required to be held in public. Therefore, some hearings in person are still going ahead.
For cases which would require a full Tribunal panel of three, the Guidance ‘encourages’ the parties to consent to a hearing with a panel of two if necessary, if the other panel member cannot be present because of the virus. That may of course present difficulties if the Employment Judge and the single panel member come to different conclusions, because Employment Tribunal decisions are made on a majority basis.
Many judges are working from home, and therefore the Tribunals have said they would prefer to receive correspondence electronically so that it can be forwarded to them more easily. In our experience, the vast majority of communication with the Tribunal has been by email anyway.
As is always the case when dealing with Tribunal matters, the ‘overriding objective’ applies, which is to deal with cases fairly and justly, and they encourage the parties to cooperate in the interests of the overriding objective.
If you are an employer looking for help with an Employment Tribunal matter, please call us on 01243 836840 for a no obligation chat, or email us at [email protected].