Employment Tribunals set out “roadmap” for future hearings
A new ‘road map’ for employment tribunal proceedings covering this year and next year issued by the Presidents of the Employment Tribunals for England, Wales and Scotland indicates that “virtual” employment tribunals are here to stay for at least that period and will be the “default” most cases. Whilst the Presidents admit that justice is best served in a face-to-face environment they also say that online hearings are helping to reduce the enormous backlog of cases.
The road map sets out what will happen for cases as they are listed. Preliminary hearings will be either a telephone call or video call, depending on the issues the hearing is considering. This will also be the case for applications for interim relief and judicial mediations, as well as final hearings of short track claims. For other hearings the mode will vary. Where possible, the default position will be an in-person hearing but if that’s not possible an online hearing will take place. In these cases the employment judge will decide.
The roadmap reflects the feedback they have had from users of the tribunal service. Many want to return to a physical building with its waiting rooms and clerks, working alongside colleagues, opponents, and clients. However, others say they prefer online hearings because it means less travelling for everyone involved. Some litigants in particular have taken the view that a virtual hearing is not a fair way to deal with a case when the evidence is disputed. However others are concerned that an in-person hearing causes disruption and forces possible unsafe travel.