NI: Employment tribunal backlog creating access to justice crisis
A growing backlog in Northern Ireland’s employment tribunals is creating an access to justice crisis, lawyers have warned.
Killymeal House, the home of the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal, is currently “closed until further notice”.
Substantive and final hearings have been repeatedly postponed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last March.
Employment and equality solicitor Rosemary Connolly told Irish Legal News: “There is real and growing concern among practitioners about the delays in scheduling substantive and final hearings.
“Cases which are initiated now are not likely to be scheduled for hearing for at least a year and a half, perhaps longer.”
She added: “There is clearly a significant access to justice issue. Claimants with unfair dismissal claims who are out of work face the prospect of waiting years to have their claims determined. This is not an effective remedy.
“Equally, employers will have claims pending for a lengthy period of time which is not acceptable either.”
Ms Connolly urged the Department of the Economy, which has responsibility for the tribunals, to develop a “realistic plan to address the situation” and engage with stakeholders.
A spokesperson for the Law Society of Northern Ireland told ILN it is “aware of the concerns arising from interruptions to the work of the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal and is raising them with the Minister for the Economy”.
The Office of the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal did not respond to a request for comment.