New employment tribunal rules, designed to streamline the tribunal process and make it easier for parties to navigate, are due to come into effect this summer.

In November 2011 the government asked Mr Justice Underhill, the outgoing President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, to undertake a fundamental review of the Employment Tribunals Rules of Procedure (ET Rules).

His recommendations, including new draft ET Rules, were published in July 2012. On 14 September 2012, the government published a consultation paper seeking views on a number of issues arising from Mr Justice Underhill’s proposed draft ET Rules . The consultation closed on 23 November 2012 and on 14 March 2013 the government published its response to the consultation. Although the final rules will not be published until May 2013, it seems that the majority of Mr Justice Underhill’s recommendations have been accepted.

The proposals the government has accepted include powers to ensure that weak cases that should not proceed to full hearing are halted at the earliest possible opportunity. It will also be made easier to withdraw and dismiss claims by cutting the amount of paperwork required.

There will also be a new procedure for preliminary hearings that combines separate pre-hearing reviews and case management discussions, which is designed to reduce the overall number of hearings and lead to a quicker disposal of cases, saving time and costs for all parties.

The new ET rules were initially expected to come into force on 6 April 2013. However, Employment Relations Minister, Jo Swinson announced that they will come into effect in summer 2013. In a ministerial statement to Parliament, Jo Swinson explained the reason for the delay stating that it was the government’s intention that the new ET rules were published to coincide with the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees, which will require additional changes to the rules of procedure.

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