The consultation on reforming access to the employment tribunal system, Resolving Workplace Disputes, has now closed and we are awaiting the government’s thoughts on all the responses. As expected, the proposals include increasing the minimum qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims to 2 years, and requiring the payment of a fee in order to lodge a tribunal claim.
The government states that its proposed changes are intended to ensure ‘maximum flexibility while protecting fairness and providing the competitive environment required for enterprise and growth’. Obviously the most controversial of these is the increased qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims which it is suggested will result in between 3,700-4,700 fewer unfair dismissal claims per year. Another proposal is extending the jurisdictions where employment judges can sit alone to include unfair dismissal. Certainly the latter proposal is to be commended as it will undoubtedly increase the speed with which claims are dealt with at hearings.
Although these proposals are likely to be generally welcomed at a time where the tribunal system is creaking at the seams, the government should also be considering other changes to address the current inefficiency we all have to suffer when dealing with tribunal claims. A couple of obvious suggestions are as follows:
Start the hearings at 9am and not at 10am, which is of course only in line with the start of most people’s normal working day.
Let the judge or the panel read the Witness Statements before the hearing starts instead of each witness going through the ridiculous and time wasting charade of reading the statement aloud.
We believe that these two very simple measures would ensure that cases progress much quicker at hearing, at a time when most tribunals are overburdened with claims. We’d be interested in your thoughts.