A new form of dispute resolution is now available in Employment Tribunals, after a successful pilot. Judges will now be able to direct the parties to attend a Dispute Resolution Appointment, where a judge will evaluate the relative prospects of success and outline the possible remedies. Schedules of loss will also be considered, to enable an indication of the likely compensation were a claim to be successful. This will take place after witness statements have been exchanged, which is later in proceedings than other dispute resolution processes and so enables detailed consideration of some of the evidence. The outcome is indicative as the process is not an alternative to a full hearing.
The appointments will initially be used in complex cases such as discrimination and whistleblowing claims, with the aim of reducing the amount of court time required in such cases. Both parties are compelled to attend a Dispute Resolution Appointment if directed to do so, although they cannot be compelled to settle. Following a Dispute Resolution Appointment, the parties may choose to enter a process to settle a case, either via ACAS or via Judicial Mediation within the Courts and Tribunals Service.
The Dispute Resolution Appointment differs from other dispute resolution options because it is non-consensual, so the tribunal can require parties to attend. Failure to do so treated in the same way as failing to attend a hearing, potentially resulting in that party being seen as unreasonable and so impacting either compensation or costs.
Early resolution of tribunal claims can be helpful for both parties by reducing court time, costs and avoiding potential negative publicity or reputational damage due to the publication of tribunal proceedings. The Dispute Resolution Appointment adds to other dispute resolution processes available once a tribunal claim has been lodged, namely ACAS conciliation, Judicial Mediation and Judicial Assessment.
The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary have issued helpful Presidential Guidance on Alternative Dispute Resolution setting out how each of these four processes operate.