Shake-up planned for industrial tribunals

PLANS to streamline and speed up the UK's industrial tribunal system are likely to receive a cautious welcome by employment lawyers.

In a Green Paper unveiled last week, the Government is proposing to clamp down on “hopeless cases”, increase the role of legally-trained chairmen, and ensure that as many disputes as possible are settled voluntarily.

If the Green Paper proposals, which were drafted by the Department of Employment, are accepted tribunals would have the discretion to dismiss “hopeless cases” at a pre-hearing review, or later when it became clear they would fail.

Chairmen would be permitted to sit alone in all but cases of discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Other suggestions include making independent voluntary arbitration available as an alternative to an industrial tribunal, extending ACAS conciliation to include redundancy payments, and introducing a statutory requirement for employees to pursue grievances with their employers before approaching industrial tribunals.

Leading employment lawyer and Simmons & Simmons partner Janet Gaymer says: “I would welcome the beefing up of procedures for striking out certain cases so that only genuine disputes reach the tribunal.”