Waiting times for the EAT increase

More judges are needed to sit at the Employment Appeals
Tribunal to combat a drastic increase in the length of time it takes cases to
be heard according to law firm Klegal.

Stephen Levinson, a partner and head of employment law at
Klegal, said the average waiting period has increased from between five and six
months in 1997 and 1998 to current waiting times of about 18 months.

Levinson believes that if something is not done to tackle
the problem employers could soon face a wait of up to 24 months between receipt
of notice by the EAT and the hearing.

He said, “The courts need experienced High Court judges with
a good knowledge of employment law. Eight judges are needed to enable the six
courts to be use efficiently and allow time for reading and writing judgements.”

Makbool Javaid, a partner at DLA agrees there is a serious
problem.

He said, “There is not only a problem of getting cases heard
but also of receiving judgements. It is taking an extremely long time for
decisions to be communicated to parties.”

Javaid believes there needs to be a bigger team of judges
with specialised knowledge of employment law which will be able to hear appeals
and make judgements much quicker if the situation is to improve.

A DTI spokesman said changes to the employment tribunal
system which come into force in July would cut down on the number of cases
overall and ease the pressure on the EAT.

He said, “Last year for the first time over a 100,000 cases
were heard or pending. The reform of employment tribunals should cut that
down.”

Under the revised system tribunal timewasters would have to
pay costs of up to £10,000 if their cases are found to be frivolous and
deposits are also being increased from £150 to £500.

By Ben Willmott. Click
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