A Q&A on employment tribunals during COVID-19

The Employment Tribunal has adapted its usual practices to adhere to government guidance on social distancing and other COVID-19 measures. To clarify things, the Presidents of the Tribunal have released a Q&A of the key questions that they have encountered since these measures came in to force. We have set out below the most relevant points to note.

Postponed hearings and preliminary hearings

Hearings due to take place up to 26 June 2020 have been rearranged to preliminary hearings, to be conducted by telephone. Some people have asked if it is possible to continue with the face to face Hearings previously planned, but “No” this is not an option.  Hearings due to take place after 26 June have not yet been revised or postponed; however, it is essential to look out for any changes in the arrangements of your Hearing as the advice surrounding COVID-19 develops.

The Tribunal will notify you of a rearranged hearing, the Tribunal is dealing with a high volume of communication, so there is a chance that you will only receive up to a weeks’ notice.

These are some top tips to help you prepare for a preliminary hearing by telephone:

  • Make sure you have the appropriate equipment – Laptop/smartphone/internet connection where necessary
  • Join the call/video early and wait for the Judge to conduct proceedings
  • Use chat panels if available to indicate when you wish to speak. Put your microphone on mute if you are not speaking.
  • Find the right setting – make sure you are somewhere quiet and private. If you have a video conference, make sure you consider and test the picture quality, and don’t forget what is in the background of the video. You might even be able to blur the background.

Q: What if you can’t attend a preliminary hearing?

A: You can email the Tribunal to explain your circumstances and request to rearrange, whether it is due to illness, or you feel that adverse conditions are preventing you from adequately preparing for a Hearing. Mark the email as Urgent in the subject line. It is at the discretion of the Tribunal whether or not rearrange the Hearing.

 

Q: When will postponed cases be rearranged for?

A: It’s impossible to give an exact timeframe for this. Certain case types are being dealt with as a priority: Statutory appeals against prohibition notices, Applications for interim relief and Dismissals where an individual has lost accommodation tied to their employment.

 

Q: What about Judicial Mediations due to take place 26 June 2020?

A: Mediations are still planned to go ahead, but via video conferencing facilities such as Zoom, Skype for Business or MS Teams. Keep the points above regarding preparation in mind ahead of the conference.

 

Deadlines and time limits

Q: Will time limits be extended?

A: No they will not be. Time limits relate to the deadline that you need to stick to when submitting your claim to the Tribunal or to Respond to a Claim made against you. These time limits are not set by the Tribunal. If party to a claim does not act before the time limit is reached, this will be assessed on a case by case basis, but there has been no change to the time limits, so they must still be complied with.

 

Q: Do I still need to comply with Orders, even if they are to be actioned before 26 June 2020?

A: If the Orders were made prior before the 23 March 2020 and relate to a Hearing due to take place before 26 June 2020, then No.

If they relate to a Hearing due to take place after 26 June 2020, then Yes, you should still comply with these Orders.

 

Tribunal opening arrangements and contacts

Q: Can I ask the Tribunal to contact me at another address – i.e. if I am working from home?

A: Yes. With people working remotely the original contact details provided might not be the best way for the Tribunal to correspond with you. You can ask the Tribunal to contact you at a different address, for example a shared mailbox or alternative postal address. 

 

Q: Is the Tribunal open?

A: Yes the Tribunal offices are remaining open. There have been temporary closures where this has been deemed necessary, but in general the Tribunals are open.

 

Q: How should I contact the Tribunal?

A: You can contact the Tribunal by phone, email and post. The Tribunal recommends contact by email to avoid unnecessary phone calls. You can also hand deliver paperwork to the Tribunal.

The Tribunal asks for your patience during this time, they are operating with reduced staff numbers so there will be delays when responding to correspondence and processing paperwork.

When communicating via email If the correspondence needs attention urgently please type “Urgent” at the beginning of the subject of the email, followed by your claim number and the names of Claimant & Respondent.

 

Keep an eye on these links for updates directly from the employment tribunal

https://www.judiciary.uk/publications/employment-rules-and-legislation-practice-directions

https://www.judiciary.uk/publications/directions-for-employment-tribunals-scotland

This post was written by Heidi Berry a Lawyer at Price Bailey, for more information contact, Heidi on the form below.

 

We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.

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