Virtual hearings will become a constant feature of the employment tribunal even once coronavirus restrictions are lifted, according to Judge Barry Clarke and Judge Shona Simon, presidents of the employment tribunals in England and Wales and Scotland, respectively. In their roadmap which was published last week, they submitted that reverting to face-to-face hearings would not be enough to tackle the outstanding caseload.
In England and Wales, the backlog of outstanding cases stood at 51,614 by the end of February – an increase of 45% compared to the baseline figure pre-Covid. Receipts have outstripped disposals in single claims for every week bar one since September, with 6,550 new claims since Christmas compared with 5,881 dealt with.
The judges predicted that video hearings will remain an ‘essential part’ of the landscape for the next two years at least, and for 2021/22 will be the default option for preliminary hearings, applications for interim relief, judicial mediations and final hearings of short track claims. Final hearings in standard track claims will vary between physical and remote hearings, with open track claims for whistleblowing and discrimination mostly heard in person.
Over the cost 6 months, it has been reported that this procedure has had positive effect on cost associated with Employment Tribunal cases, particularly does related to travel and waiting times, but whether these cost savings are being passed on to client is yet to be seen.