On 29 April 2020, the Law Commission published its report on Employment Law Hearing Structures. The Report runs to just over 200 pages and concludes with 23 recommendations to improve the Employment Tribunal’s ability to resolve disputes.
The Commission’s key recommendations are as follows:
Changes to Time Limits
Tribunals’ Relationship with the Court
Changes to Time Limits
Increasing time limits was favoured by a majority of those consulted, including in the recommendations from the Employment Law Bar Association (to which Mohinderpal Sethi QC and Lucy Bone of Littleton Chambers contributed) whose reasoning was “A six-month time limit would allow sufficient time for early conciliation to take place without the need for any extensions and would be simpler for claimants to understand”. A majority also favoured adoption of the ‘just and equitable’ test for all claims as a fairer and more flexible approach.
A particular concern of the Law Commission was the fact that claimants currently might have to bring two sets of proceedings where there is a substantial contractual claim. This leads to additional cost for parties and a strain on precious Court resources. The proposed increase in the cap to £100,000 (which greatly outstrips inflation since the £25,000 limit was introduced in 1994) will mean than many such claims can be heard together with other employment claims in the Tribunal.
The current state of the law is that:
With this potential injustice in mind, the Commission recommends that respondents should be able to seek contribution in the Tribunal from other respondents who are liable for the same loss. This is akin to the position in the Courts under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978.
Tribunals’ Relationship with the Courts
Significant restructuring of the tribunal service was not considered by the Law Commission. Its Report recognises that the Employment Tribunal is a specialist jurisdiction with different characteristics to Courts. Its recommendations would see Tribunals continue to have exclusive jurisdiction over many types of claims whilst also being granted increased powers. Although it remains to be seen which of these are ultimately implemented, the recommendations address existing issues pragmatically and had broad support amount those consulted.