Lawyer with heavy case-load
12 May 2021 | Business

The New Roadmap for Employee Tribunals

While the 2020-2021 lockdowns appeared to have brought a lot of industry to a standstill, the legal profession has continued as usual, with workload increasing in some sectors.  With specific regard to employment tribunals the Presidents of the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary has issued a roadmap to help law professionals manage caseload during the COVID-19 pandemic and in to the 2022 period.  Compared to pre-COVID figures tribunal case load had increased by around 45% by the end of February 2021.

Sharing of case files to distributed teams is a key priority, hence new software will be delivered to all regions by the end of this month, giving easier access to case files while working remotely.

To spread the workload on members of the bench, a new practice direction will allow legal officers to perform some judicial functions under supervision of a judge.  This has led to an increase in recruitment to fill legal advisor roles in order to take advantage of this change, which will largely allow legal advisors to progress cases while easing the burden on judges.

Going forward, the roadmap sets out new defaults for the listing of cases, with the majority being heard remotely.  For example, judicial mediations and preliminary cases that are listed in private will be done by telephone or video, and claims over unpaid wages, notice periods, etc., will default to video.

While hearings have been delayed due to the pandemic, it is hoped that the formation of a virtual region, whereby judges and staff from geographically different areas will be able to hear cases using cloud-based video technology, not too dissimilar from the video conferencing services that have become ubiquitous over the last year or so.  It is expected that virtual hearings will remain an ongoing feature even after COVID restrictions have been lifted, with video hearings continuing at least into 2023.  For the 2021/2022 period video hearings will now be the default option for, among others, judicial mediations and some preliminary hearings.

The move to virtual and telephone-based hearings will help reduce the delay in the formation of new case law as employers and employees learn to deal with a post-COVID working environment.

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