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Employment: Tribunals

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the Gibbons Review recommendation to review the circumstances in which it is appropriate for employment tribunal chairs to sit alone, in order to ensure that lay members are used in a way that adds most value; and if he will make a statement. (185070)

[holding answer 7 February 2008]: The Government acknowledge the valuable and important contribution which lay members make to the tribunal system. This was reaffirmed through responses to the Government consultation ‘Resolving disputes in the workplace’ which was issued in March 2007 and closed on 20 June 2007. Most respondents commented that the tripartite structure of the tribunal was a real strength which aided decision-making in cases where considerations of context and reasonableness were important.

There was also support in the consultation for employment judges to sit alone in determining cases involving issues of a purely legal nature and in straightforward monetary cases, where the practical experience of the workplace that lay members bring to the tribunal’s deliberations is of less relevance. Additionally, over 70 per cent. of respondents to the consultation supported the introduction of a new, swift approach to dealing with straightforward claims, where cases could be determined by an employment judge, with the consent of the parties, on the basis of the papers.

Responding to these findings in the consultation process, the Government propose to develop further the good practice which already exists within the tribunals by establishing a fast-track system for dealing with simple monetary claims. The fast-track system will involve five jurisdictions where claims potentially raise straightforward issues and therefore potentially could be determined without the need for a tribunal hearing. The jurisdictions considered suitable for the fast track are:

unlawful deductions from wages

breach of contract

redundancy pay

holiday pay

the national minimum wage

Claims falling within these jurisdictions that are combined with other jurisdictions outside the list, will not be eligible for a fast-track determination.