COVID-19 Employment Tribunal update
The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales and in Scotland have issued a message on practice during lockdown.
Users should assume that any hearing that has been scheduled to take place in person will continue to take place on that basis, but also make provision for that decision to be revisited. In England and Wales the aim is for physical attendance at an employment tribunal venue to be the exception, and only where it is necessary in the interests of justice.
In England and Wales forward lists are being examined to see whether in-person hearings can be converted to hybrid or fully remote hearings, or whether hybrid hearings can be converted to fully remote hearings.
Wearing masks in tribunal
The Presidents of Employment Tribunals have asked all Employment Judges and ET non-legal members to act in accordance with a memorandum issued by the Senior President of Tribunals on 15 January 2021 which states that with immediate effect "judges and members should strongly encourage the wearing of masks/face coverings by everyone in the hearing room, except for the judge/panel or a person who is directly addressing the tribunal".
Guidance published on reporting Covid-19 incidents in courts and tribunals
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has published 'Guidance: Reporting Covid-19 incidents to court and tribunal staff and professional court users'.
The guidance states that if anyone who has been into a court or tribunal building later tests positive for Covid-19 they should inform managers in the relevant building "at the earliest opportunity", as well as informing the NHS Test and Trace service. Where HMCTS is notified of positive or suspected cases, it will initiate its own contact tracing and, where there are two or more cases, it will conduct an investigation.
- HMCTS is asking all users to use the contact tracing app and scan QR codes in court and tribunal buildings. Contact tracing will only be paused within buildings in those areas defined in NHS guidance, including:
- When behind a fixed Perspex (or equivalent) screen and fully protected from other people.
When the user stores their phone in a locker or communal area.
HMCTS will update local stakeholders and court users of the situation, while maintaining the confidentiality of those directly affected. It will also comply with public health requirements by notifying local authority public health teams whenever the threshold for reporting incidents is reached, and act on their advice.
We discussed Employment Tribunals and the impact of Covid-19 in our most recent Trowers Tuesday. Click here to access the recording.
Take note: The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) issued a consultation in December on measures to reform post-termination non-compete restrictive covenants in employment contracts which closes on 26 February. We've put together a short survey which we will use as part of a response to this consultation and would be very grateful if you would spare a few minutes to answer it.