How will employment tribunals go ahead during lockdown?

09 February 2021

Employment tribunals have adapted the way that hearings are held because of coronavirus restrictions. Tribunal hearings are still going ahead during lockdown, with various options available. Here's everything you need to know if you have an upcoming employment tribunal hearing.

How can employment tribunal hearings be held during lockdown?

Employment tribunals now offer a range of options when it comes to how a hearing will be held. These are:

  • Fully attended hearings, where everyone attends the employment tribunal in person

  • Partially attended and partially remote (hybrid) hearings, where some participants attend in person and others attend remotely

  • Fully remote hearings, where everyone attends remotely

How is a remote hearing held?

Employment tribunals use the Cloud Video Platform “CVP” to conduct remote hearings, which is an online video conferencing platform. CVP can be used on either a Windows computer or a Mac, and on Apple, Windows and Android tablets or smartphones, although use on a desktop, rather than smartphone is recommended. The employment tribunal also recommends the use of Google Chrome as the browser.

It is recommended that participants join the CVP room before the hearing starts. This gives them an opportunity to check their settings, security and preferences on their device, and ensure that their browser has access to their camera and microphone. Some tribunals will also allow a practice run several days before the hearing so that a claimant and / or witnesses can check everything is in working order with one of the tribunal clerks.

How will the employment tribunal decide which hearing option is appropriate?

There are not any fixed rules around whether a case will be heard in person, remotely or a hybrid of the two. This will be a decision for the employment tribunal.

When deciding this, the employment tribunal will take lots of factors into account, such as:

  • Whether there is sufficient space for an in-person hearing to be safely conducted

  • Whether everyone can travel to the employment tribunal building safely. For example, anyone who is vulnerable to COVID-19, or who lives or interacts with someone who is, may need to participate remotely

  • Whether the employment tribunal and the people attending the hearing have access to suitable hardware and software to participate in a remote hearing

  • Whether each participant can operate the necessary technology for a remote hearing

  • Whether there are sufficient employment tribunal staff available to support a remote hearing

  • The delay caused, if any, if the hearing was held in person, rather than held remotely

  • Personal circumstances of each participant. For example, the vulnerability of one participant to COVID-19 may mean that a remote hearing is more appropriate, however a participant with language issues or certain disabilities may mean that a fully attended hearing is more appropriate so they can better understand the process

  • Whether the people involved in the hearing will have legal representation. The employment tribunal will need to consider whether someone without legal representation will be able to understand the proceedings and participate effectively in a fully remote hearing

  • Whether there are contested facts. Employment tribunals may be more likely to favour in-person hearings if witness evidence is likely to be critically important in the case

The Employment Tribunal will also generally consider: - The wishes of the people involved

  • The complexity of the case

  • The length of the hearing

  • The nature of the matter in dispute

  • Whether all the attendees have adequate equipment and internet connection for an effective remote hearing to take place

How can you express your views on how the hearing is held?

When a claimant makes a claim to the employment tribunal, they need to complete a form ET1. The respondent needs to complete form ET3 to respond to the claim. Both of these forms now ask individuals to confirm whether they would be able to take part in a video hearing.

It's also possible to make requests in writing at any stage of the proceedings. If there are circumstances which mean a particular method would be more suitable, the employment tribunal should be informed of this in good time. Ideally this should be before a decision has been taken on the method of the hearing.

If a decision has already been made by the employment tribunal, you must check which method is being used in your case and make sure you are comfortable with it. If you wish to challenge this decision, you will need to apply to the employment tribunal well before the hearing.

For more information and practical guidance on how to access a Hearing via CVP please visit GOV.uk.