The Employment Tribunal established under the Employment Claims Act 2016 will come commence operations from 1st April 2017 and will be housed within the State Courts.
Under the new regime, the Employment Tribunal is expected to hear all statutory claims for all employees covered under the Employment Act, the Children Development Co-Saving Act and the Retirement and Re-employment Act. It will also hear specified contractual dispute matters for employees, including professionals management and executive employees where such claims are related to monetary issues not exceeding $20,000.00. Mediation will be compulsory before a claim may be filed with the Employment Tribunal. Where the mediation is union-assisted, the monetary limit is raised to $30,000.00. Costs orders may be made against parties who refuse to attend mediation. However, a claimant whose claim exceeds $20,000 or $30,000.00 (whichever the case may be), may abandon the excess amount to enable their case to be heard by the Employment Claims Tribunal. It should also be noted that a claim must be brought within one year of the dispute arising, or within 6 months if the employment relationship has ended.
Legal representation will not be allowed under the new regime, in line with the policy that the tribunal will provide a simple and time-effective resolution to monetary disputes arising from employment disputes. Hearings are to be held in an informal manner and is to be judge-led as opposed to the usual adversarial style found in court proceedings. The tribunal is not bound by rules of evidence in the conduct of any proceedings and may inform itself on any matter in such manner as it thinks fit.
These developments represent a challenge to employers who may now have to handle their disputes with employees without legal representation and those involved in human resource management may have to develop new skill sets to deal with mediation and hearings before the Employment Tribunal.