Consultation launched into how employment law disputes are decided

The jurisdiction of employment tribunals, and the areas where they share jurisdiction with the civil courts to hear employment and discrimination claims, are being independently reviewed in a consultation paper.

The Law Commission – an independent body set up to reform the law – has today published a consultation paper which asks questions about many areas of shared and exclusive jurisdiction to hear employment law and discrimination law claims.

Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines QC said:

“The Law Commission welcomed the opportunity to conduct an independent review of the areas of shared and exclusive jurisdiction of employment tribunals and civil courts.

“While this involves a review of technical laws rather than fundamental policy, these can deliver real benefits for the courts and tribunals system and its users.

The proposals and questions in our consultation paper identify aspects of employment tribunals’ and the civil courts’ areas of jurisdiction which could be adjusted so as to bolster their ability to resolve as much of a dispute as effectively and justly as possible in one venue.”


The Civil Courts Structure Review led by Briggs LJ noted that there is an:

“awkward area” of shared and exclusive jurisdiction in the fields of discrimination and employment law, which has generated boundary issues between the courts and the Employment Tribunal System (the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal). Both employment tribunals sit “uncomfortably stranded between the Civil Courts and the main Tribunal Service”.

These issues are well known amongst employment law experts, judges and practitioners. They can cause delay and can also prevent cases being determined by the judges best equipped to handle them.

Aims of the project

This project came out of our 13th Programme of Law Reform and started in December 2017.

It will seek to resolve problems caused by this allocation of jurisdiction, as well as investigating the outdated and in some respects arbitrary limits on the Employment Tribunal’s jurisdiction in the employment field.

The Ministry of Justice and the Department of Business, Energy, Innovation and Skills (BEIS) are in the process of reforming the Employment Tribunal system as part of the modernisation of the courts and tribunals system.

They have indicated that there are no plans to consider radical structural change.

This project will therefore work within the boundaries set out by the Government’s position, considering ways of addressing the problems by means short of major restructuring.

Further information

The Law Commission is a non-political independent body, set up by Parliament in 1965 to keep all the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed.

The open public consultation on employment law hearing structures will run until 31 January. The Law Commission is seeking a wide range of views.

Find out more about the consultation, and how to respond here.