New reforms to boost hearing capacity in employment tribunals have been introduced at Westminster with the aim to hear more cases and allow for greater flexibility in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the changes being made will allow the judiciary the option of deploying non-employment judges into employment tribunals and will also allow employment judges who normally sit in England and Wales to sit in Scotland and vice versa.
Announcing the reforms, Business Minister Paul Scully said: "The employment tribunal system has held up very well in the face of an increased caseload and the impacts of COVID-19- but these changes will boost its capacity further. These reforms will provide further flexibility to the system to ensure workers and businesses receive quick and fair resolutions to disputes, both at this critical time and in the future too."
In addition to this, from 1 December 2020, ACAS early conciliation will last six weeks as standard, rather than the current set-up which spans one calendar month with a possible fortnight’s extension.
An Acas spokesperson said: “We welcome these changes to early conciliation. One key change includes extending the time period of early conciliation from one month to six weeks.
“At the moment, Acas has a statutory duty to offer early conciliation for one calendar month and this can only be extended by two weeks if all the sides involved in the dispute agree with their conciliator to this extra time to help resolve the dispute. The change from one month to six weeks will make this process smoother and remove any hurdles to settling cases within six weeks.”
This news about the extension of the early conciliation period will be welcomed by many as it should allow for more cases to be resolved during this period, preventing the need for cases to proceed to the employment tribunal, where it will likely take a considerable time for a case to be heard.
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