Should a tribunal narrow its focus from a list of issues previously agreed between the parties?
No, unless variations are necessary and in the interests of justice, held the EAT in Ijegede v Signature Senior Lifestyle Operations Limited.
The Claimant, a Carer, brought claims of discrimination. At the tribunal, the Claimant's wife, a lay person, represented him. The parties had agreed, as part of the orders, a list of issues after two preliminary hearings. At the final hearing, the tribunal departed from the agreed list of issues, narrowing the claim by excluding two issues, an allegation that the Claimant had been singled out for disciplinary action, and disregarded the circumstances of the Claimant's real comparators, relying instead on a hypothetical comparator. During the appeal it emerged that a grievance letter intended to be part of the claim form but sent separately to the tribunal had not been served on the Respondent. The EAT held that the tribunal had wrongly narrowed the list of issues, leading it to misunderstand the basis of the claim, rendering the judgment unsafe.
Had the tribunal undertaken a more formal analysis of Rule 29 in considering varying the list of issues at the final hearing, the status of the grievance letter and the tribunal's misunderstanding of the claim might have come to light, it was not enough simply to disagree with a previously agreed list. The EAT remitted the case to a new tribunal for a fresh hearing.
Thanks to Ed McFarlane of Worknest LAW for preparing this case summary.