The President of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales issued a letter last week in response to the new national lockdown rules. The letter detailed how the Tribunals intended to continue to facilitate remote hearings during the next few months.
Since the beginning of the pandemic the Tribunals have had to adapt to a remote way of working. The past nine months have seen final hearings be heard remotely through the Tribunal's Cloud Video Platform or MS Teams and many straightforward case management preliminary hearings have been heard by telephone. In some cases, hybrid hearings have taken place with some participants in physical attendance at the tribunal, with others attending remotely through video means.
While the letter states that attendance at in-person hearings is still permitted under the lockdown rules, the aim is for physical attendance at the Tribunals to be the exception and only where it is necessary in the interests of justice.
The letter concludes with the President thanking all Tribunal users for their support and cooperation in these challenging times.
While the move to remote video hearings has been a reactive measure by the Tribunals to the pandemic - this provision of hearing cases must stay. It reduces the need for parties to travel (sometimes miles away from their homes for short hearings), for large hard copy bundles to be produced due to electronic bundles now being accepted and most importantly, it will assist the Tribunal with working through the ever-growing backlog of cases they currently have. Just remember though, if you're participating in a remote hearing, make sure you're off mute when addressing the judge!
"While tighter restrictions operate, however, the aim is for physical attendance at an Employment Tribunal venue in England and Wales to be the exception, and only where it is necessary in the interests of justice."