Press release

Government to simplify and improve employment tribunals

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

New rules aimed at streamlining the Employment Tribunal process were announced by Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson today

New rules aimed at streamlining the Employment Tribunal process were announced by Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson today. These changes will make tribunals easier to understand, more efficient and will help weed out weak claims.

In November 2011 the government commissioned Mr Justice Underhill, former President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal to lead a fundamental review of the rules of procedure for employment tribunals.

In its response, published today the government sets out plans to streamline the tribunal process and make it easier for parties to navigate.

The proposals the government have accepted include:

  • new strike out powers to ensure that weak cases that should not proceed to full hearing are halted at the earliest possible opportunity;
  • guidance from the Employment Tribunal Presidents to help ensure that judges deal with hearings in a consistent manner which ensures parties know what to expect;
  • making it easier to withdraw and dismiss claims by cutting the amount of paper work required; and
  • a new procedure for preliminary hearings that combines separate pre-hearing reviews and case management discussions.This will reduce the overall number of hearings and lead to a quicker disposal of cases saving time and costs for all parties.

Employment Relations Minister, Jo Swinson said

We are committed to finding ways to resolve workplace disputes so they don’t end up with two sides in front of a tribunal.

The proposals set out today will help all parties understand what the process involves and what to expect. Employment Tribunals are costly in terms of time, money and stress for everyone and they should always be the last resort, not the first port of call.

We have always said, and this is backed up by international evidence, that the UK has one of the most flexible labour markets in the world. Our efforts to review of areas of employment law not just tribunals are about making sure business can get on and grow, while employees have the necessary protections in place.

It is expected that the new rules will come into force this summer.

The government is also publishing an update report Employment Law 2013: progress on reform which sets out its vision of a flexible, efficient and fair labour market. The report outlines key achievements to date and looks ahead to future work on the government’s Employment Law Review.

Notes to editors:

1.The government invited Mr Justice Underhill to carry out a review of the rules of Employment Tribunal procedures to ensure that the rules were simplified and provided a framework to manage cases flexibly, efficiently, proportionately and where possible consistently.

2.Mr Justice Underhill made a number of recommendations to simplify and streamline the employment tribunals system. He drafted new rules of procedure for Employment Tribunals which the government consulted on. The outcome of the review was published in July 2012. The length of the legislation was cut in half, and the language substantially simplified.

3.There were 186,300 Employment Tribunals cases between April 2011 and March 2012. It is estimated that employers face average cost of £3,900 and each case costs the tax payer £1,900. The proposals could save the tax payer £0.42m and businesses £0.28m.

4.It is intended that the new rules will incorporate the new rules on fees and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (ERR) Bill measures on cost and increased flexibility of deposit orders. The rules will be issued by May to allow parties time to familiarise themselves with one set of rules and avoid the piecemeal revisions that the Underhill review was tasked to address.

5.The Labour Market Strategy sets out the government’s vision for achieving a labour market that is flexible, effective and fair. It identifies the further evolutionary improvements necessary to ensure the employment law framework continues to deliver our vision and support individuals and employers achieve the outcomes they want, and support economic growth.

6.The UK labour market is high performing, both historically and compared to other countries. There are more people in employment than ever before. According to the ONS, the UK working age employment rate in Q4 2012 was 71.5% and the unemployment rate over the same period was 7.8%. According to OECD data, our employment was higher than the US and the G7, OECD and EU averages in Q3 2012. Furthermore our unemployment rate was lower than the EU average.

7.The Employment Law Review is the most comprehensive review of employment law for a decade. Through the Review, and the associated employment-related law Red Tape Challenge, we have listened extensively and we are now embarked on an ambitious schedule of implementation to make the changes necessary. The document provides a full update on progress made so far, and forthcoming measures.

8.The government has already made a number of changes to employment law, including increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one to two years. A number of further changes to help resolve workplace disputes are currently before Parliament as part of the ERR Bill, including Early Conciliation, Settlement Agreements. The government is also consulting on reforms to The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employments) (TUPE) and the recruitment sector. Both consultations are due to close on 11 April 2013.

9.The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.