Business body calls for overhaul of employment tribunals system

The Government needs to commit to a complete overhaul of the employment tribunals system, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said.

There has been an unstoppable rise in the backlog of claims waiting to be heard, despite lower volumes overall, Government figures showed.

The average claim takes approximately 18 months to process, denying swift justice to employees with valid claims and sending costs for businesses spiralling, the employers' organisation said.

The CBI has drawn up a list of proposals which it believes are required to catalyse a wholesale culture-change in the employment tribunals system.

The suggestions include strengthening the role of judges to prevent the tribunals wasting time by listening to irrelevant evidence.

At present employment tribunals are overseen by the Ministry of Justice, but the business body is calling for responsibility for administering the system to be handed over to the Department for Business.

The Government has started on some valuable reforms, but many of these appear to have ground to a halt, the CBI said.

Tribunals need to be refocused on "speedy and effective dispute resolution" rather than the formal, lumbering court-like proceedings they have become.

"The processes of the High Court do not belong in an employment tribunal," Katja Hall, the CBI's chief policy director, said.

She said the length of time the system took to process claims made tribunal reform businesses' main priority in terms of employment law.

"Delays in the system prevent valid claims getting swift justice and lead to soaring costs for businesses, whether they win or lose," Ms Hall added.

"We need wholesale culture change throughout the system, and that needs to start at the top with judges playing a greater role in questioning, discounting irrelevant evidence, and focussing on the facts at the heart of disputes.

"Bringing responsibility for the tribunal system under one roof in the Department for Business will make the system more coherent, user-focused and less adversarial.

"It will mean that the system refocuses on serving its customers - employers and employees."

The CBI proposals also back the idea of publishing league tables charting the performance of individual tribunal offices in a bid to make them more accountable.

Copyright Press Association 2013