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Skype in the tribunal – a first?

It is being reported that the Reading employment tribunal is the first tribunal to have allowed the use of Skype to conduct part of a hearing. The tribunal allowed a witness who had relocated to Turkey and was unable to return for the hearing to give evidence via Skype in a local hotel with an internet connection.

The tribunal rules allow hearings to be conducted using electronic communications where it is considered just and equitable to do so. Normal video conferencing was not an option in this case as the witness was not living in an area of Turkey in which it was available. The Respondent successfully argued that the use of Skype was in line with the overriding objective to deal with cases justly, particularly as all the parties were able to proceed with the hearing and the cost of adjourning and flying the witness over outweighed any perceived benefit of hearing the evidence “in person”. The fact that Skype is free is likely to have been a factor, given that the overriding objective includes saving expense.

It will be interesting to see to what extent tribunals sanction the use of video conferencing and Skype going forward.

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