The employment tribunals have recently moved to dealing with unfair dismissal cases under the fast-track procedure that has been operating for some years in wages claims.
This means that when the tribunal gets a claim for unfair dismissal they set a date for the hearing before sending the claim to the Respondent. The hearing date will be within 16 weeks of the receipt of the claim. So the Respondent will get a letter from the tribunal saying “There is a claim against you, which we enclose. There will be a hearing on date X to decide it.”
This contrasts with the normal procedure, where the tribunal waits for the Respondent to put in their response before setting a date.
The aim is to get relatively simple unfair dismissal cases resolved more quickly. More complicated cases that will need over a day to hear, or those combined with a discrimination claim, will still be listed in the usual way.
There are a couple of practical points arising out of this:
- Since the tribunal will be listing the case quickly, it makes sense to tell them if you have any unavailable dates when you put in your ET1.
- Applications for postponements from the Respondent are likely to be fairly common and, given that the date will have been set before they know anything about the claim, will probably be granted provided they are made promptly. The tribunal will aim to list the new hearing within 26 weeks of the date they received the ET1.
The interesting underlying point is that the move indicates that the tribunal thinks that most unfair dismissal cases can be heard in one day. About six years ago this was the normal practice, but listings then began to creep up until the standard listing was two days (this is one of the many things the Statutory Dispute Resolution Procedure gets blamed for).
On the whole, we think this is a good development. Most unfair dismissal cases can be fairly resolved in one day, and a short, early hearing has advantages for both parties. But the change means that time pressure in these cases is likely to increase.