19 January 2012 #Employment
In the Employment Tribunal (ET) case O`Cathail v Transport for London, the Claimant had applied for an adjournment of his tribunal hearing on the grounds of ill health. The Claimant supported this with medical evidence but the ET refused the adjournment and proceeded with the hearing. The Claimant appealed the decision to refuse the adjournment.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that their starting point must be that the law requires a fair hearing to be afforded to parties where their civil rights are determined. The EAT highlighted that decisions whether to grant or refuse adjournments arise in a variety of contexts but most decisions do not imperil the fairness of the proceedings as a whole.
The EAT held in this case that the practical consequence of the decision to refuse the adjournment was to deny the Claimant any opportunity to participate in the hearing. The EAT went on to say that:
“A party to tribunal proceedings has a legitimate expectation of giving evidence on oath, calling witnesses, questioning witnesses and addressing the tribunal. These are normal incidents of a fair hearing. But for his illness the Claimant would have been permitted to participate in the hearing in these ways. It was in our judgment unfair to refuse an adjournment, thereby effectively depriving the Claimant of any opportunity to participate in the hearing.”
This case shows that, in general, a tribunal hearing can and will be adjourned on the grounds of ill health. Only on very rare occasions will a tribunal be entitled to refuse such an adjournment however frustrating when you have spend considerable time preparing for a hearing and will incur increased costs by attending the rescheduled hearing