In the last week, we have seen a couple of developments relating to employment tribunals which will be of interest to employers. The first relates to a new online register of employment tribunal judgments; the second is the publication of the Government’s response to its consultation on transforming the justice system.
Online employment tribunal judgments
HM Courts and Tribunals has now launched its online register of employment tribunal judgments, (some time after its initial announcement about the planned availability of this service back in June 2016). The register is available here. This is the first time that there has been a central register of judgments at employment tribunal level. At present, the number of cases available on the new online service is limited, mainly covering cases in 2016 and 2017 (with a small number of 2015 cases). It is anticipated, however, that all new cases will be available on this register going forward. EAT judgments are still available through the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website.
Government publishes response to its consultation on “Transforming our justice system”
Reform of the courts and tribunals system has been on the agenda for some time. Back in July 2016, Lord Justice Briggs published his final report on the Civil Courts Structure Review which contained a number of comments on the employment tribunal system and referred to the potential for a new Employment and Equalities Court (see sections 11.11-11.21).
Then, on 15 September 2016, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice, and the Senior President of Tribunals issued a joint statement on their shared vision for the future of Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service. The statement highlighted that the case for reform of the tribunals system is “compelling” and that there is a plan to create “one system, one judiciary” with better quality outcomes. By 2020, therefore, it is proposed that tribunals will be part of a single justice system with a single judiciary. The statement said that “tribunals will be digital by default” but with help in place for anyone who needs it – and that the needs of people who use the tribunals will be “put at the centre”, allowing all parties better quality, faster and less stressful resolution of claims.
At the same time as the publication of the joint statement, the Ministry of Justice published a consultation paper, Transforming our justice system. The consultation sought views on making the justice system faster and easier to use. In relation to employment tribunals specifically, the proposals were limited with the consultation paper indicating that reforms being adopted elsewhere in the justice system (eg streamlining procedures, more decisions ‘on the papers’, more virtual hearings, simplifying panel composition etc) could be applied to the employment jurisdiction. The consultation generally asked for views on 3 specific elements:
- Assisted digital facilities;
- Online conviction and statutory fixed fine; and
- Panel composition in tribunals.
The consultation received 790 replies and the Government’s response was published last week. Unfortunately there is no specific reference to the employment tribunal system but the response indicates that support (in the form of a national network of accessible, quality assured assistance alongside telephone and webchat services) will be put in place for any digital solutions eg services which are moved online. We shall have to wait to see how developments progress. For now, despite the current lack of information, it seems certain that change is firmly on the agenda.