As of 23rd March 2020: partial lockdown in place. Barristers and solicitors are key workers but there is an ongoing debate as to when and if travel is essential for work / work is essential and/or working conditions are safe.
Last updates re ET are:
- All hearings listed from now to 29th June 2020 have been converted into a telephone case management hearing on the first day of the hearing;
- Some hearings have been postponed altogether, albeit this seems to be because of specific applications made by parties due to illness/self-isolation/quarantine.
- Any in-person hearings listed on or after 29th June 2020 remain listed.
- The ET will be reviewing the position regularly and specifically on 29th April 2020 and 29th May 2020.
- London Central ET have postponed all hearings, whether in person or by telephone. The hearings may resume on 30th March 2020, but there is no guarantee.
- Case management orders from telephone hearings have tended to be:
- Case relisted for an in person hearing with a date in around 6+ months plus time.
- Parties asked to liaise with each other to see if there is another option (e.g. virtual hearings). This has thrown the initiative on to the parties at this stage, but this may change as the Tribunal establishes a more co-ordinated approach
- There is no clear resolution to the issue of how to hold an ET hearing in public remotely.
- Judges clearly want detailed and agreed agendas with lists of issues filed in advance for telephone case management hearings.
- Telephone case management hearings have been taking place through: members ringing a BT number, members ringing PowWowNow and via a telephone call from the Judge.
- Some of the telephone facilities are becoming overwhelmed. Some parties have limited web cam access and are choosing WhatsApp on mobiles.
- The ET clerks are running on reduced numbers and have an increased workload whilst trying to organise the next few weeks. It is unclear if they have been able to work from home due to restrictions on removing documents from ET buildings.
- If the Judge is also working from home, it is unclear how much access they have to the ‘paper’ tribunal file and/or whether staff are available to scan and email documents from the tribunal office to the Judge.
Latest updates re EAT are:
- There will be no hearings, whether in person or virtual, from 25th March 2020 to 15th April 2020.
- Any appeals lodged during this time can only be via email.
- The EAT has requested that any represented parties inform unrepresented parties of this change.
- Judges may still be issuing remote directions.
- Time limits are to remain the same.
- An announcement is expected to be made before 10th April 2020 as to future cases listed after 15th April 2020.
- It seems that Skype for Business is the software to which the ET Judiciary have been given access.
- Those on Microsoft teams (apparently the successor to SFB) can receive calls and accept invitations to a team ‘hearing’ from SFB, and receive it through Teams.
- It seems that, if the Judge uses SFB and the barrister or solicitor uses Teams, some features are no longer available, such as sharing documents via the Chat function.
It is, of course, still possible to provide these by email or via a secure data room. The former may not be practicable without the Judge’s personal judicial address because of the significant pressure on the HMCTS staff.