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Is an Employment Tribunal a 'Court'?

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Is an employment tribunal a 'court'?

Yes, for the purposes of determining an insurer's liability to pay out under an insurance policy, held the Court of Appeal in Irwell Insurance v Watson.

Mr Watson brought claims against his employer. The employer became formally insolvent and by the time of the hearing in the Court of Appeal had been dissolved. The insolvent employer had insurance against claims in the employment tribunal with Irwell. Mr Watson applied for them to be added as a party in the tribunal under the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 2010.

That Act (in the case of employment claims) transfers liability to pay out under a policy from the employer to the employee but only where (per s2(6)) "Where the court makes a declaration under this section..."

Bean LJ decided that the employment tribunal was a court for these purposes saying:

"It is plain that...the 2010 Act was...[to avoid] the need for a third party such as Mr Watson to have to issue two sets of proceedings...If [the Employment Tribunal is not a] "court"...the "one-stop shop" service which the 2010 Act creates for claimants bringing within the jurisdiction of the civil not available to claimants raising causes of action within the exclusive jurisdiction of the ETs."

The Court of Appeal also decided that an arbitration clause in any policy applying to claims under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and Equality Act 2010 is void when liability would or might be transferred to the employee.

Thanks to Matthew Jackson of Albion Chambers for preparing this case summary.