There are many ways of working which have proven beneficial during the coronavirus outbreak. However, in certain areas of practice and process, a return to pre-Covid ways simply isn’t practical.
Leading judges across the UK have predicted that virtual hearings will become a permanent fixture for the employment tribunal – even once coronavirus restrictions have been lifted entirely.
Judge Barry Clarke and Judge Shona Simon, presidents of the employment tribunals in England and Wales and Scotland respectively, outlined that returning to face-to-face hearings would not be enough to tackle the current backlog.
In a roadmap published this week, the judges said:
‘We must reflect on what we have learned and ensure that we keep hold of the good. The future will involve more, not less, use of technology,’
‘Unlike many other jurisdictions, the pandemic has inflated our caseload (which had been rising for some time anyway since the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Unison case in 2017). It follows that a return to pre-pandemic ways of working as restrictions relax is not an option for the employment tribunals.’
As a result, video hearings will continue to be an ‘essential part’ of the process for the next two years at a minimum, and for 2021/22 video hearings will will be the default option for preliminary hearings, applications for interim relief, judicial mediations and final hearings of short track claims.