At this time of year, we are usually advising businesses on potential legal pitfalls of the office Christmas Party, when matters arise as staff have had their brains and minds loosened with alcohol. This year for a change there is an opportunity to advise on the range of changes at the Employment Tribunal due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Cloud Video Platform (CVP)
There have been changes to the employment tribunal hearings which are usually done in person in a tribunal building. The pandemic has led to the very speedy rolling out of online solutions to dealing with hearings, including the use of the Cloud Video Platform known as CVP.
The employment tribunal figures as at, 22nd November 2020 show that there is a back log of 42,895 single employment tribunal claims. This is not surprising when you consider that since March 2018, there has been an increase of 115% of cases within the Employment Tribunal service.
The backlog and continuing restrictions on movement and social distancing indicates that video hearings will become increasingly common in the future. Caspar Glyn QC recently commented that there were over 2,000 hours’ worth of Video hearings in the last month alone. So, it appears this change is here to stay.
What is cloud video platform?
The Cloud Video Platform (known as CVP) is the government’s secure video link operated by the Ministry of Justice and the HM Courts and Tribunals Service akin to Microsoft Teams or Zoom for example. However, it has been created secure for the purposes of tribunal proceedings to ensure privacy and confidentiality, which is required during litigation.
In the New Year there will be further changes which will include the electronic uploading of employment tribunal bundles and witness statements at an online Document Centre in advance of hearings.
It is hoped this will make things easier generally and that this will enable members of the public to be able to access the documents while the hearing is proceeding (in the event the hearing is open to the public).
As we live in a democracy and in order to promote confidence in the judicial system it is encouraged that justice is not only to be seen, it must also be heard. This means that members of the public can access an employment tribunal hearing if they wish to do so.
I recently experienced a CVP hearing as a member of the public. I did this for purposes of seeing how smoothly this new technology is being adopted. The Employment Tribunal I requested access to was the Central London Employment Tribunal in Kingsway House Holborn (which in my view is the beating heart of Legal London).
How do I access a public employment tribunal hearing?
- As licensed by the Ministry of Justice, Courtel publish the lists of the employment tribunal hearings at https://www.courtserve.net/courtlists/current/ets/indexv2et.php
- To view the lists, please register as a member of the public at the following link: https://www.courtserve.net/secure/registration.php
- You can then contact the relevant tribunal to request access to the public hearings on the tribunal hearings list.
How do CVP Hearings work in practice?
I found accessing a remote hearing easy to use, and relatively straight forward as a member of the public. It is always interesting and to see the Barristers and Judge deal with issues that arise with technology and being remote. It will be even more helpful to be able to access the public documents which I understand will also be happening in 2021.
In my opinion viewing an online hearing provides an insight into how hearings are done these days and is really useful for any potential witnesses, employers or employees who may be involved in an Employment Tribunal case to observe so they know what to expect at the full hearing in due course.
We have always recommended to our customers who have a hearing listed that they try to attend and Employment Tribunal hearing before their own. This is however not always easy because of geography and time involved in travelling to the Employment Tribunal. Now that it can be done remotely via Video, I will strongly recommend it and expect that the numbers who take up the opportunity will increase. It is a great way to ensure that you are prepared for the hearing or giving evidence as a witness.
Currently Lawyers and Barristers are getting up to speed with how hearings work by attending hearings, and there will be inevitable changes as to how we advise our clients who have tribunal hearings via CVP.
The Judge is still in control and directs the hearing. The conduct of the hearings may take longer, and legal advisers will have to ensure their clients understand exactly whom they have to look at and answer questions from when giving evidence or being cross examined for example. It may even help if witnesses are given the option of giving evidence from their Solicitor’s offices, in a spare meeting room with computer set up, as a way of ensuring that there is a secure, private space in which to have the hearing for any witnesses that are called.
A whole new protocol is also developing with regards to checking that all the technology works in advance of the hearing. Further we will be advising our customers on the need to be fully prepared and going through the relevant stages of a hearing so that those attending are familiar with the technology being used, and the hearing process generally. Observing a remote hearing, can be part of this familiarisation process.
If you are bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal or involved in defending a claim then we are here to help and support you through the process. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any member of the team for a no obligation quote, and don’t forget we offer an initial free telephone call where we can answer your questions.