Employment tribunals: a footnote in textbooks?
The role of the employment tribunal as a cheap, quick and informal means of settling employment disputes looks set to become a footnote in employment law textbooks. Political pressure to reduce the number of applications appears to have fundamentally changed the ethos of the tribunal. By imposing fees for applications and hearings, the government has created a financial hurdle in addition to a substantive one. Not only does this fly in the face of the original aims of the tribunal, it undermines the rule of law. Employment tribunal claims are reported to have fallen by 80 per cent.
Employment tribunals remain, marginally, a maverick element of English legal system. Despite desperate and calculated efforts by lawyers to bring them into the mainstream, they continue to retain residual elements of the tribunal rather than the court, with the aim of providing a quick and cheap resolution of employment disputes.
It is not clear for how much longer this can continue. At present there is no dress code, no advocacy monopoly and relative informality.