New 'road map' for the year also sets out staffing developments including a 'virtual region' that will bring together judges and lay members remotely to hear cases
New guidance has been issued by the Employment Tribunals Presidents for England and Wales and for Scotland on the use of remote hearings 'by default' in 2021/2022.
In their first 'road map' for hearing and listing Employment Tribunals issued in June 2020 - attached to guidance on FAQs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic - the Presidents set out their expectation that telephone and video channels would be increasingly used in the period to December 2020.
Providing updated guidance today in A road map for 2021/2022, the Presidents summarise developments to manage caseloads and to improve efficiency in preparation for the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions over the spring and summer of 2021. In particular, these include -
- a first wave of new legal officers starting work from mid-April 2021, authorised from the outset to determine all matters that fall within their delegated powers, and having a greater role in ‘case progression’ work, ensuring case management issues are dealt with promptly to avoid last-minute delays;
- the President in England and Wales will launch a ‘virtual region’ in April 2021, populated by around 100 existing fee-paid Employment Judges (and in due course by non-legal members) enabling judges, members and staff who are geographically dispersed to come together on the Cloud Video Platform; and
- the President in England and Wales will launch an exercise later in the spring to invite expressions of interest from salaried and fee-paid judges working in courts and other tribunals with suitable employment law expertise to act as Employment Judges in England and Wales.
In addition, the guidance sets out the types of cases that will be decided via telephone or video hearings 'by default' in 2021/2022 (subject to an Employment Judge deciding that the default position should not apply or, where a party objects in writing) -
- preliminary hearings listed in private for case management purposes will default to telephone or video;
- preliminary hearings in public to determine a preliminary issue such as time limits or employment status will default to video;
- preliminary hearings to consider an application to strike out or for a deposit order will default to video;
- applications for interim relief will default to video;
- judicial mediations will default to telephone or video;
- final hearings of short track claims (unpaid wages, notice, holiday pay, redundancy pay etc) will default to video;
- final hearings of standard track claims (unfair dismissal) and open track claims (discrimination and whistleblowing) will vary - in most parts of Britain, as the physical estate recovers and requirements for social distancing are removed, they will return in greater numbers to in-person, while in London and the South East where the backlog is most severe they will default to video; and
- other hearings listed specifically to deal with applications for reconsideration or costs/expenses will default to video.
NB - the guidance confirms that the intention is to apply the default approach to cases that are yet to be listed, but that it is open to a tribunal in an ongoing case to revisit its approach on its own initiative or upon application by a party.
For more information, see Employment Tribunals: A road map for 2021/2022 from judiciary.uk