Employment tribunals began life as industrial tribunals in the mid 1960s. Since then, their jurisdiction has expanded considerably under the Race Relations Act, equal pay legislation, the Sex Discrimination Act, various EU directives, legal judgments and the incorporation into UK law of the European Convention on Human Rights. They now have jurisdiction over more than eighty types of complaint. The number of applications, which has been rising rapidly, was over 130,000 in 2000–2001.
Professor Shackleton examines the role of these tribunals and considers whether they can be justified in present-day conditions or whether they are a ‘sixties leftover’, as ‘out-of- date as kaftans and love beads’. He considers several proposals for reform that have been put forward, none of which he finds appealing. He then looks at the possible benefits of a return to voluntarism, with a deregulated labour market and employers and employees contracting freely. Moves in this direction are, he believes, the only way to turn back the growth of tribunal applications.