One-day unfair dismissal hearings to be listed within 16 weeks

As part of a new listing policy adopted by the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales, unfair dismissal claims are now being listed for hearing within 16 weeks of the receipt of the claim form.

The new policy only applies to unfair dismissal claims, but will also apply if other simple claims such as unlawful deductions and redundancy payment claims are combined with the unfair dismissal claim. However, the new speedy hearing policy will not cover situations where more complex claims (such as discrimination or whistle blowing) are combined with the claim for unfair dismissal.

Upon receipt of the notice of claim, both parties will be asked whether a one-day hearing will be sufficient and to give reasons in writing if it is not. The normal time limit for filing a response will still apply; 28 days from receipt of the claim.

In order to ensure the claim will be heard within the 16 week limit, the Tribunal will impose strict deadlines (occurring as frequently as every 2 weeks) upon both parties for submitting documents and exchanging witness statements.

Clearly employers will need to ensure they act promptly and proactively once a claim form has been issued.  Our experience dictates that some Tribunals are enforcing the policy so strictly that we have seen hearing dates received before the employer’s ET3 has been filed. However, these changes are welcome news for employers.  Straightforward unfair dismissal claims should now be disposed of more quickly and cost-effectively, and with any luck Tribunal waiting times will be driven down as a result!