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Employment Act 2002

Section 27: Practice directions

74.Unlike the President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), the Employment Tribunal Presidents do not have the power to issue practice directions. That was confirmed by the EAT in the case of Eurobell Holdings Plc v Barker. However, the EAT noted that it was undesirable that employment tribunals should adopt different practices and procedures in different regions and that, if need be, the President should be given statutory power to make practice directions which apply countrywide. It was noted in the 1994 Green Paper ‘Resolving Employment Disputes – Options for Reform’ that some tribunal chairmen favoured the issuing of formal practice directions by Tribunal Presidents, to guide them on how discretions ought to be exercised. Examples of such discretions include rule 4 of the main Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure, which says that a tribunal may issue directions, or rule 17 where it may extend certain time limits.

75.By providing Tribunal Presidents with the power to issue practice directions, the Government’s objective is to ensure that tribunals adopt a consistent approach to procedural issues and to the interpretation of their powers under the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure. It is believed that such consistency will lead to an increase in confidence among users of the tribunal system that cases are being dealt with in a uniform way regardless of where they are heard.

76.This section inserts a new section 7A into the Employment Tribunals Act 1996, giving a power to amend the employment tribunal procedure regulations so that Tribunal Presidents can issue practice directions. There are currently two Presidents in Great Britain – one for England and Wales and one for Scotland. The Presidents will be able to issue these directions in respect of Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure and the exercise by tribunals of powers under them. In addition, the procedure regulations may contain provisions about securing compliance with practice directions and their publication. The procedure regulations may also refer to provision made or to be made by practice directions, instead of making such provision themselves.

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