A consultation paper has been issued in connection with revising ET procedu= res. The proposals arise primarily from the Employment Act 2002 and the Em= ployment Tribunal taskforce report.
The key reforms proposed are:
- the Rules of Procedure are to be recast so that they follow a more logical structure and are expressed in more 'plain English' terms.
- the IT1 and IT3 disappear, now to be called Claim and Response forms. The forms must contain specified information and, if not provided, will cause the forms to be rejected.
- the circumstances in which a respondent may gain an extension of time for submitting a response form are to be more tightly specified.
- there will be new pre-acceptance procedures to sift out claims and responses that (for one or more of a number of specified reasons) should not go forward.
- Acas's duty to conciliate is to be limited to a fixed period in most cases, to encourage parties to settle in good time rather than just before the Tribunal hearing. This fixed period will be either a short 7 week period or a standard 13 week period, depending on what the case is about. However, in discrimination cases, which tend to be particularly complex, Acas's duty to conciliate will remain unlimited in time.
- where a case is uncontested, the Tribunal will in future usually issue a default judgment against the respondent without holding a hearing.
- powers are to be provided for the Employment Tribunal Presidents to issue practice directions to ensure that a consistent approach is adopted to procedural issues.
- explicit provision is to be made for cases to be struck out at pre-hearing review, but only within the grounds on which Tribunals may currently strike out claims or responses outside such a review. (Such grounds include failure to comply with an order or direction, or the inclusion in the claim form or response form of anything scandalous, unreasonable or vexatious or conducting the proceedings in such a manner.)
- two substantial changes are to be made to the present costs rules: (i) there will be a new provision for awards in respect of preparation time in some circumstances; and (ii) it will be possible for representatives (except not-for-profit representatives) to incur a costs award on account of their own conduct.
- the rules will apply to the whole of Great Britain, replacing the current separate, but essentially equivalent, Rules for England and Wales and Scotland.
- Following this public consultation, it is intended that revised Regulations will be laid before Parliament in spring 2004 and come into force on 1 October 2004.