Law Commission to consider ‘Employment Law Hearing Structures’

by Laurie Anstis on December 18, 2017

The Law Commission has set out its 13th programme of law reform, to be developed over the next three years.

One of the areas of review is ’employment law hearing structures’, in respect of which the report says (paras 2.14-16):

The Civil Courts Structure Review led by Briggs LJ noted that there is an “awkward
area” of shared and exclusive jurisdiction in the fields of discrimination and employment law, which has generated boundary issues between the courts and the Employment Tribunal System (the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal). As sui generis entities, both employment tribunals sit “uncomfortably stranded between the Civil Courts and the main Tribunal Service”. These issues are well known amongst employment law experts, judges and practitioners; they can cause delay and can also prevent cases being determined by the judges best equipped to handle them.

The project will seek to resolve problems caused by this allocation of jurisdiction, as
well as investigating the outdated and in some respects arbitrary limits on the
Employment Tribunal’s jurisdiction in the employment field.

The Ministry of Justice and the Department of Business, Energy, Innovation and Skills (BEIS) are in the process of reforming the Employment Tribunal system as part of the modernisation of the courts and tribunals system, and have indicated that there are no plans to consider radical structural change. This project will work within the boundaries set out by the Government’s position, considering ways of addressing the jurisdictional problems of the Employment Tribunal System by means short of major restructuring.

This has echoes of earlier concepts of a single employment and equalities court, but the caution that there will be ‘no plans to consider radical structural change’ suggest that the employment tribunals will remain as a separate jurisdiction within the tribunal system for the foreseeable future. It does, however, appear that this review will attempt to address issues such as the £25,000 limit on breach of contract claims in the employment tribunal.