The government will next month introduce a number of reforms designed to reduce the 45,000 backlog of cases in the employment tribunal.
Business minister Paul Scully said the changes will help more cases be heard and open up court space. Rules will be amended to allow greater use of virtual hearings, while non-employment judges will be deployed in the tribunal, if certain criteria on suitability are met.
The number of outstanding cases in the tribunal has grown by 26% since the beginning of March and is expected to increase in the coming months when employees are made redundant at the end of the furlough scheme currently supporting their wages.
Scully said: ‘The employment tribunal system has held up very well in the face of an increased caseload and the impacts of Covid-19 – but these changes will boost its capacity further.
‘These reforms will provide further flexibility to the system to ensure workers and businesses receive quick and fair resolutions to disputes, both at this critical time and in the future too.’
Other changes include allowing legal officers to carry out administrative tasks currently performed by employment judges and amending the rules to allow multiple claimants and respondents to use the same forms where reasonable. These reforms will come into force on 8 October.
Further measures refining the early conciliation and employment tribunal rules will be implemented from December.
Lawyers have told the Gazette that they have hearings being listed for 2022 due to the backlog. In the final week of August, MoJ figures show the tribunal received 910 claims but disposed of just 582.
The government says its plans for the tribunal will help deal with demand and reduce unnecessary delays. It is also expected that reducing the need for physical hearings will make it easier for parties, for example saving on travel costs.