Employment Judges

Employment tribunal chairmen are now renamed Employment Judges – a change which highlights the change in philosophy and attitude in the Tribunal, which seems to completely contrast with the changes occuring in the ‘normal’ courts system.

The tribunal is supposed to be informal, its procedures pragmatic, and its language accessible. So much so, in fact, that in normal circumstances you can’t get legal aid for an ET hearing no matter what your means. Yet look at the developments:

  • They’re now chaired by Judges;
  • In 2004 the existing 21 Tribunal Rules exploded to 61;
  • We have CMDs, PHRs, strike-outs, pre-acceptance procedures;
  • More costs orders against unreasonable litigants;
  • The utterly ridiculous ET1 forms:

Comment has been made in the past on the wording of the standard form ET1, which the Government insists all litigants must now complete in order to bring a claim before the Employment Tribunal. …those who design these forms may care to undertake basic instruction in employment law. – HHJ Peter Clark,  Ellis v Ministry of Defence UKEAT/0034/07

  • …not to mention the impossibility in the first year or two of submitting the blasted things without having to resort to filling them in by hand;
  • And let us not forget the convoluted and spectacular failure of the Dispute Resolution regulations, taking grievances – which had on occasion solved the problem – and transforming them into a legalistic over-technical minefield, together with obliterating the chance of anyone approaching them constructively.

So would we say the Tribunals are becoming more cuddly? Or less cuddly? A cynical view is that this sort of system leads to less hearings at the Tribunal, and thus less money spent, as one side or the other wins or loses on a technicality long before the Tribunal ever gets a chance to fully assess the merits of the case – or simply can’t face the attrition of yet another meeting. An even more cynical view is that the slow walk to enforced Acas-controlled or accredited mediation has even more risk attached of bumping up the legal bills.