Coronavirus (COVID-19) – How is it affecting current employment tribunal cases?

Answers to FAQs about impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on employment tribunal cases.

As with all areas of life, current employment tribunal cases have been affected by the measures implemented by the government. In order to assist users, the Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England, Wales and Scotland collated questions being asked by individuals and users of the tribunals.

We have summarised the position in relation to key questions our clients have been asking over the past few weeks.

Q1. My hearing is listed for 3 days at the end of May. Will it go ahead as planned?

Unfortunately not. All cases due to be heard between 23 March and 26 June 2020 have been cancelled and listed for a preliminary hearing by telephone on the first day the hearing was due to be heard. The case will be discussed with a judge on this call, any preliminary issues identified and dealt with where possible, directions set, and a re-listing date discussed.

Q2. In my case, the hearing was due to start after 26 June 2020. Will it also be postponed and converted to a preliminary hearing by telephone?

At present, any cases due to start after 26 June 2020 will go ahead as planned. However, the position is changing on a regular basis and it may be that hearings from this date onwards for a further period of time will also need to be cancelled and converted to a telephone preliminary hearing.

Q3. In my case, the tribunal had previously made various orders and directions. They related to ‘case management’ matters such as exchanging documents. Those orders and directions had deadlines, requiring me to do things between 23 March and 26 June 2020. Must I still comply with those orders and directions?

It depends on when the hearing, requiring you to attend a tribunal office, has been listed. If that hearing was due to take place between 23 March 2020 and 26 June 2020 then the answer to this is no. All orders and directions made prior to 23 March 2020 are suspended and will be re-ordered /re-considered following the telephone preliminary hearing.
If the hearing is due to start after 26 June 2020, the answer is yes because at present the hearing is still scheduled to go ahead as planned. However, this may change, so make sure you check for further presidential guidance.

Q4. I was expecting my case to be converted to a preliminary hearing by telephone in accordance with the Presidential Guidance. However, I have heard nothing from the tribunal. What should I do?

Due to administrative limitations, parties may not receive confirmation of this until a short time beforehand. The tribunals are attempting to contact parties a week before the expected telephone preliminary hearing to confirm the position, however we have had experience of this confirmation and a number to call being provided at 4pm the day before the preliminary hearing! Make sure your contact details are accurate and that the tribunal has an email address so that notice can be sent out without delay.

Q5. Given the problems caused by the pandemic, will the Employment Tribunal extend the time limits within which a claim should be brought/ a response to a claim should be provided?

The tribunals are continuing to assess this on a case by case basis upon application by the parties. Whether extensions are granted will depend on the issues faced by the party and whether the interests of justice favour an extension. An extension should not be assumed, and therefore where at all possible parties should submit a claim/ a response within the usual timeframes.

Alternative options

Given the delays to tribunal cases, parties may want to use this time to re-consider mediation or settlement options.

If you wish to seek advice on the management of tribunal cases affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,  contact a member of the Employment team call 01227 763939.