Concern grows over tribunal lay appointees

HR professionals are concerned that new appointees to employment tribunals lack experience of employee relations.

Last year, the Government changed the system of appointment for tribunal members to encourage more applications from women and ethnic minorities. The changes were designed to bring the system in line with Lord Nolan’s recommendations on public appointments.

Jadine Riley, the CBI’s senior policy adviser on employee relations, said, “I think the Government has accepted that they did not put as much weighting as they should have done on practical experience.”

Previously, the TUC, the CBI and CIPD nominated people who accounted for 95 per cent of the 2,100 lay members of tribunals.

However, of the 330 most recent appointments, only a few were nominated by any of the organisations.

Only 13 per cent of the candidates put forward by the CBI have been successful.

Paul Pagliari, group HR director at Scottish Power, believes it is too early to assess the impact.

He said, “Tribunals need the sort of skills that enable them look at all of the dimensions of a person’s employment contract so that they can tell whether it has been fulfilled or breached. Lay representatives have got to be competent.”

Sarah Veale, employment rights officer for the TUC, said, “We do feel that this has robbed the tribunals of what everyone always said was important: practical experience of the workplace. No one knows the background of these people.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Trade and Industry, which oversees lay appointments, said the exercise had achieved its objectives. “Everyone had to have a minimum of five years’ relevant experience,” she said.

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