Will employment tribunals go ahead during lockdown?

15th June 2020

All tribunal hearings scheduled to take place before 26 June 2020 will no longer be held in person. Instead a case management hearing will be held by telephone on the first day that the hearing was due to be heard and any subsequent days will be cancelled.

From the start of June 2020, courts began conducting more remote video hearings using the Cloud Video Platform (CVP hearings). They are issuing practice directions and supplementary guidance for these hearings.

What is a case management hearing?

The purpose of the case management hearing is to discuss steps to proceed with the case, taking into account the current social distancing guidelines due to coronavirus. The Judge may also consider how the impact of coronavirus could affect each side's ability to effectively prepare for the case if the hearing is able to soon go ahead.

The case management hearing will take place on the date allocated to the first day of the tribunal hearing. If the tribunal hearing was scheduled for more than one day then everyone involved should proceed on the assumption that the remaining days have been cancelled.

How employment tribunal hearings will be held during 2020

Employment Tribunals will begin to hear more cases remotely where possible, either by telephone or CVP.

There is a four-phased approach, in which claims are grouped into the following categories:

  • Short track claims will include unpaid money claims, and are usually listed for 1-2 hours
  • Standard Track claims will be for Unfair Dismissal claims and are usually listed for 1-3 days
  • Open Track claims will include claims for discrimination and whistleblowing, and are usually listed for 3 days or more

Phase 1 – June 2020

The focus will remain on case management hearings, judicial mediation and priority claims.

Many private hearings will go ahead by telephone, with an increasing number using CVP where the Judge considers this appropriate. This will most likely be for Short Track claims.

Standard Track and Open Track cases are less likely to be heard remotely in June.

Phase 2 – July / August 2020

It is unlikely that many Open Track cases will be heard in this phase.

Standard Track cases that lost their original listed dates between March and June 2020 will be re-listed in July and August, where remote hearings are deemed appropriate.

Some in-person hearings will begin where possible. These are likely to be for Short Track cases or preliminary hearings and availability is likely to vary across the country.

Phase 3 – September / October 2020

Employment Tribunals will seek to hear more Open Track cases remotely, where this is deemed appropriate by a Judge, alongside more in-person hearings where possible.

Phase 4 – November / December 2020

The Employment Tribunals will review the use of the system and consider the way forward in line with any government guidelines that remain in place at that time.

Employment appeal tribunal hearings

From 16 April 2020, the EAT has been holding remote hearings via telephone, Skype or other internet-based platforms in a limited number of appeals. Until further notice, the following measures will apply:

  • Where it is considered by the EAT that a remote hearing may be practicable in a particular case, the EAT will contact those involved to confirm:

    • their views on whether a remote hearing should be held; and

    • whether they can ensure that the Judge and all parties will be provided with, and have access to, an electronic version of the hearing bundle and (if appropriate) the authorities bundle.

The final decision as to whether a hearing shall be conducted remotely will lie with a Judge of the EAT.

  • Where it is considered by the EAT that a remote hearing is not practicable in a particular case, it will be postponed to a later date. The EAT will inform those involved of the postponement as soon as possible. The EAT will endeavour to re-list postponed cases as soon as possible. No precise guidance can be given at this stage as to when a re-listing will occur, as this may depend on the operational impact and extent of any ongoing measures related to the pandemic.

  • Anyone who has not received information from the EAT about their appeal by 4.00pm on the 7th day before their hearing is set to begin, should immediately contact the EAT by email requesting an update on their appeal. The EAT has requested that people refrain from seeking updates on their appeals outside this timeframe.

  • During this period, the EAT may not be in a position to respond immediately to email or telephone enquiries. It may take longer than usual for the EAT administration to respond to communications.

The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals (for England & Wales, and for Scotland) have issued a helpful FAQ document which provides further information.