Should Interim Relief hearings be held in public?

We’ve got a further update for you on Interim Relief. If you didn’t have time to read our update last week, you can find it here.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held in Queensgate Investments LLP and ors v Millet, that hearings to determine applications for interim relief must be held in public, unless a separate application under Rule 50 of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure 2013 restricting publicity is made.

Why?

The EAT held that in determining whether to grant interim relief, an Employment Tribunal will have to consider whether it is likely that the claim will be successful at a final hearing and this amounts to the determination of a preliminary issue under Rule 53(1)(b).  Rule 53(3) defines a ‘preliminary issue’ as, in relation to any complaint, ‘any substantive issue which may determine liability’.

Why is this decision so important?

QI LLP, the employer in this case, argued that the interim relief application (sought by their former employee, M, to continue his contract of employment and pay until the final hearing) should be heard in private and/or sought an order preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of the proceedings under rule 50. The reason being that that it would suffer reputational damage resulting in economic damage.

M was dismissed for purported redundancy. He brought several claims in the Employment Tribunal, including a claim for automatic unfair dismissal for having blown the whistle. His allegations against his employer included the use of sexist, racist and homophobic language within the workplace and allegations that the CEO had committed breaches of fiduciary duty, serious misconduct and fraud.

The ET judge ruled that interim relief applications are to be heard in public and declined to make an order under rule 50.

The EAT agreed. The EAT went on to note that, among other things, its conclusion was supported by the common law principle of open justice.  It did not exclude the possibility that commercial damage might provide the basis for an order restricting publicity; however, the publicity would have to have such catastrophic consequences that justice simply could not be done without the restriction. An employer would therefore have to provide full, frank and compelling evidence which goes beyond commercial embarrassment.

The legal update in blog was brought to you by Jo Sinclair, Trainee Solicitor