Employment tribunals currently have a robust set of case management powers for dealing with, amongst other things, postponements. These powers are underpinned by a set of overriding objectives to which a tribunal must have regard when exercising its case management powers. One of these objectives is avoiding delay. Late postponements of tribunal hearings can be frustrating but sometimes unavoidable. The current case management powers appeared to allow tribunals to deal adequately with postponement requests.
However, the government consulted over proposals to tighten up the availability of postponements in the employment tribunal. Among the proposals were as follows:-
- Restricting a party to two postponement requests (unless there are exceptional circumstances).
- Postponement requests must be made at least 7 days prior to the hearing in question (unless a party can demonstrate exceptional circumstances).
- Obliging the tribunal to consider making a costs order if the request is made less than 7 days pre-hearing.
The response to the consultation was not massive, although the majority of those stakeholders who did participate were against the proposals. The Government have opted to crack on with the proposals in any case. It will be interesting to see what impact the new rules will have, although some might say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. More to follow once the new rules take effect.