For most employers, the world of employment law is full of tight deadlines, speedy hearing dates and imminent Tribunal Directions. It’s worth bearing in mind that the timescales are now even tighter. As a result of a judicial listing policy, all unfair dismissal claims (that deal with unfair dismissal only and nothing else) will now be listed for one-day hearings to take place within just 16 weeks of claims being issued.
Lawyers acting for employers may have already noticed that, when receiving an ET1 Claim Form from a Tribunal, the directions have been set and a hearing date has already been listed.
The new timetable is intended to help Tribunals clear their backlog of cases, as well as allow employers to deal with straightforward claims more efficiently and cost effectively. However, for employers representing themselves at the Tribunal, this will necessitate being extremely organised in complying with Tribunal directions on time and exploring settlement from the outset.
It will also be essential to tell the Tribunal at an early stage if a one-day hearing will be inadequate or the listed hearing date inconvenient, as late applications for postponement are unlikely to be granted without very good reason.
It is imperative, then, that employers urgently seek legal advice and legal representation at the earliest opportunity, as failure to comply with directions may lead to the Tribunal making an order for costs of preparation time against the defaulting party or – in more severe cases – it may even prevent an employer from defending the claim altogether.