By Daniel Hunter

New rules aimed at streamlining the Employment Tribunal process were announced by Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson today (Thursday). These changes will make tribunals easier to understand, more efficient and will help weed out weak claims.

In November 2011 the government commissioned Mr Justice Underhill, former President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal to lead a fundamental review of the rules of procedure for employment tribunals.

In its response, published today the government sets out plans to streamline the tribunal process and make it easier for parties to navigate.

The proposals the government have accepted include:

- new strike out powers to ensure that weak cases that should not proceed to full hearing are halted at the earliest possible opportunity;
- guidance from the Employment Tribunal Presidents to help ensure that judges deal with hearings in a consistent manner which ensures parties know what to expect;
- making it easier to withdraw and dismiss claims by cutting the amount of paper work required; and
- a new procedure for preliminary hearings that combines separate pre-hearing reviews and case management discussions.This will reduce the overall number of hearings and lead to a quicker disposal of cases saving time and costs for all parties.

“We are committed to finding ways to resolve workplace disputes so they don’t end up with two sides in front of a tribunal," Employment Relations Minister, Jo Swinson said.

“The proposals set out today will help all parties understand what the process involves and what to expect. Employment Tribunals are costly in terms of time, money and stress for everyone and they should always be the last resort, not the first port of call.

“We have always said, and this is backed up by international evidence, that the UK has one of the most flexible labour markets in the world. Our efforts to review of areas of employment law not just tribunals are about making sure business can get on and grow, while employees have the necessary protections in place.”

It is expected that the new rules will come into force this summer.

The government is also publishing an update report Employment Law 2013: progress on reform which sets out its vision of a flexible, efficient and fair labour market. The report outlines key achievements to date and looks ahead to future work on the government’s Employment Law Review.

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