03 September 2010 #Employment
When dealing with case management issues, Employment Judges have a wide discretion in terms of how proceedings are managed, within the scope of the statutory tribunal rules. Judges may issue management instructions (known as directions) on their own initiative, or following the application of the parties to the case. This may include a direction to stay proceedings, which effectively postpones the matter for a certain time.
The tribunal came under scrutiny in the case of Gloucestershire Constabulary -v- Peters when it refused to grant a stay of proceedings in the context of a related criminal investigation into the Claimant`s conduct. Having already postponed the case on several occasions previously, it was found that the tribunal had wrongly refused to grant a further stay of proceedings.
In this case, the Claimant employee was under investigation for suspected fraudulent claims for sick pay. The Police therefore sought to postpone the employee`s claim for disability discrimination pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
The EAT held that the tribunal`s refusal to grant a further stay was improper in the circumstances. Ultimately, the EAT agreed with the employer that there was a substantial overlap of issues between the police investigation and the tribunal proceedings. It was also acknowledged that any release of the police`s evidence as part of tribunal proceedings could prejudice a future criminal trial.
Although an indefinite stay was not considered appropriate, the EAT ordered a limited, final postponement so as to enable the CPS to complete its investigations. This case highlights that stays are a discretionary measure, and will only be granted in appropriate circumstances.