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Employment Tribunals: Legal Advice

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance 2:15 pm, 19th January 2016

I thank the Member for his question; it opens up a far-reaching debate in many respects. Tribunals are a legal process. While the original intent was that people would not go there with batteries of lawyers on either side, that is their entitlement in a legal process and things have moved in that direction, although not every employee or employer will choose to have legal representation or be able to afford it.

The process in tribunals is not that of a court; it is that of a tribunal. What we are now terming employment judges, and indeed the panels, are keen to ensure that they can dispense business in an efficient and effective manner. It is worth putting on record our appreciation of the great strides made in recent years on case management to ensure that cases progress efficiently.

It is important to recognise that we are trying to move as many cases as possible outside the tribunal process and have them addressed through different forms of alternative dispute resolution, which is in the interests of employees and employers. Ultimately, there will be cases that need to go to a tribunal, and it is people's right to take a case to a tribunal. Where possible, however, we want to avail ourselves of more cost-efficient and effective interventions at an earlier stage.