Thursday, 16 February 2012

Skype enters the courtoom - a guide

The free technology which allows 2 parties to talk to each other as well as see each other has entered the employment tribunal for the first time according to 'Lovells'.

Rule 15(2) of the Employment Tribunals Rules of Procedure 2009 says that proceedings may utilize 'electronic communications' if it is considered 'just and equitable' to do so. Perhaps when this rule was introduced it wasn't clear that Skype was to be used by more and more of us.

In the ELA briefing this month Sarah Lovell of Lovell's Solicitors describes the first use of this technology in the tribunal I have heard of.

The case was part way through an unfair dismissal and race discrimination claim which went apart heard in April 2011. One of the respondent's witnesses had given evidence and was halfway through cross-examination when the case was adjourned. In the intervening period, the witness had left the UK and emigrated to Turkey and was unable to return on relevant dates. Video conferencing was not an option as the witness did not live in one of the only places in Turkey where it is available. The obvious choice was Skype

The tribunal considered the application to allow Skype on the morning of the hearing. It had regard to the overriding objective and the waste of tribunal time which would have occurred if the hearing had been adjourned. There was no Wi-Fi at the tribunal and so a room was hired in a local hotel with an Internet connection.

Another point to remember is that the hearing must be 'in a public place' and so a sign should be added to the outside of the conference room door.

Rule 15(2) says :

'It must be in a public place to which the public has access and using equipment s that when oral evidence is given the public is able to see and hear all the parties to the communication'.

Barring a poor connection Skype could be the answer where video conferencing is unavailable.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Draft SI for Increasing Qualifying Period

The draft The Unfair Dismissal and Statement of Reasons for Dismissal (Variation of Qualifying Period) Order 2012 have been published.

For all employees employed on or after 6th April 2012, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal (and requests a statement of reasons for dismissal) increases to two years. Employees whose period of continuous employment began on or before 5th April 2012 will still be subject to the one year qualifying period.