Yesterday the Lord Chancellor's Department published the results of the responses to the Tribunal Review consultation. Sir Andrew Leggatt, heading the Review team (see bulletin 18/5/00), is due to report to the Lord Chancellor by April 2001.
The responses can be seen at www.tribunals-review.org.uk
Almost 300 responses were received. The review dealt with all tribunals - thus covered (eg) educational needs tribunals, mental health tribunals, the Child Support Agency, immigration tribunals, rent review tribunal as well as employment tribunals.
I summarise some of the important responses (so far as they apply to ETs):
Most of the jurisdiction comments related specifically to employment tribunals. Many responses thought that ETs should:
• become the forum for litigation instituted by the employer, not just the employee;
• hear all cases involving contractual jurisdiction, whether or not the employee remained in employment and including restrictive covenants;
• therefore have authority to grant injunctive relief;
• be enabled to make recommendations to the employer to improve work practices (as well as awarding compensation) after a successful unfair dismissal claim;
• have an increased limit on claims (particularly basic and compensatory awards) or an unlimited jurisdiction;
• be the starting point for ALL discrimination claims (including discrimination re goods and services), although there should be the possibility of transfer to the county court;
• take the work of the reserve forces appeal tribunals.
There was some comment about the overlap between DDA cases in the ETs, and PI actions in the county court, but no firm recommendations were made.
A (small) minority of those responding said that tribunals should have a general power to award costs. Employment tribunals were specifically mentioned as being a venue where the limited costs powers were not effectively used in practice. In particular, it was suggested that the late withdrawal of an employment application should ordinarily attract cost sanctions.
It was noted that employment tribunals were amongst the most expensive of all tribunals, with costs for employers sometimes running into tens of thousands of pounds.
For employment tribunals, formal procedures were appropriate. Oral hearings, rather than paper submissions, were desirable.
The significant majority wished to retain employment tribunals as separate bodies (even if in favour of merging other types of tribunals).
A significant minority thought that tribunals (generally - not limited to ETs) were not, or not perceived as, independent. The main problems revolved around appointment procedures and the inherent lack of independence in the wing members (again, not specifically ETs).