Rather unexpectedly, the Court of Appeal has used a judgment to launch a lengthy defence of the employment tribunal system. The observations were made by Lord Justice Mummery (a former president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal) in the Court’s judgment in Gayle v Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust  EWCA Civ 924, a long running saga involving a claim by Ms Gayle that she was penalised for taking part in trade union activities.
As readers will be aware, the Government is currently considering the results of a consultation on reforming the employment tribunal system, the proposals for which include simplifying the process, tackling weaker cases and encouraging settlements. Many of the proposals seem sensible (although I’m not sold on the two-year qualifying period for unfair dismissal).
Mummery LJ’s observations seem to have been made with this consultation in mind. He noted that, although reforms of substantive employment law are outwith the Court’s purlieu, issues of “procedural efficiency and justice” are of direct concern to the judiciary. Sitting judges are not especially prone to releasing press statements about their views on legal matters, and Mummery LJ seems to have seen the Gayle case as a good opportunity to make his strong feelings on the matter known, given the EAT’s statement (when rejecting all but one of Ms Gayle’s various complaints) that it was “a matter of great regret that so much public money and time has been spent on this matter”.