As part of its review of employment law, the Coalition Government has asked the outgoing President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Mr Justice Underhill to “lead a thorough review of employment tribunal rules…and develop and recommend a revised procedural code” (BIS Terms of Reference document, 2011). His report is expected in the next few weeks and his recommendations will then be digested and consulted on by the Government with a revised code likely to be in place in early 2013.
Regular users of employment tribunals will appreciate the recent spoof “Austerity Measures in the Employment Tribunals” devised in fun by Naomi Cunningham and Michael Reed as their superb April Fool blog post. If you haven’t already seen it you can find it here
Whilst the official review is unlikely to include any of these measures (we hope!?), employment lawyers all over the country are pondering what changes the former President’s review may ultimately entail and no doubt willing him to tackle their own pet hates within the current rules. A select few are working with him as part of the Expert User Group and will be bringing their own experience to bear as part of the process. The rest of us can only rely on the power of thought!
An indication of his thought process has appeared in the BIS annual update on the employment law review, in which it states “Mr Justice Underhill has confirmed that he sees the principles underpinning the Review as shorter Rules, using simpler language and supported by practical guidance.” (Find the complete document here)
Never shy of giving practical guidance in his judgments, the former President can surely be expected to make a real difference to the day to day conduct of tribunal cases under a revised procedural code. He has a unique opportunity to bestow the benefit of his considerable judicial experience on subsequent users of the tribunal system. His recommendations, or such of them as are ultimately adopted, may not satisfy everyone and let’s face it, pleasing everyone in an exercise of this nature would never be possible.
But whatever is the outcome of his review, whether or not it addresses the issues individual lawyers have with the current regime, each and every one of us who deals with the rules of procedure should be grateful that someone with such breadth of experience of employment law and the tribunal system has such an opportunity to turn a full analytical gaze on the current regime.
And so we wait!