Can an Employment Tribunal be a Court?




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In Irwell Insurance v Watson [2021] it was held an Employment Tribunal (ET) could be a Court.

This is a case where determination of an insurer’s liability to pay out under an insurance policy questioned the jurisdiction of an ET to be able to make this decision.  The Court of Appeal held an ET was a Court for the remit of this purpose.

Mr Watson made a claim against his employer, Hemingway who became insolvent.

Due to the insolvent employer having insurance through Irwell against claims in the employment tribunal, Mr Watson applied for them to be added as a party within the meaning of s2(6) in the tribunal under the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 2010 .

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and did not accept the argument that the ET’s lack of enforcement powers is a reason why it should not be considered a “court” within s2(6).

The court also rejected the notion that Parliament could not have intended ETs to deal with questions in relation to insurance law. ETs regularly have to deal with difficult questions of law across a variety of topics, not just confined to employment law.

Bean LJ decided the employment tribunal was a court for these purposes saying:

“It is plain that…the 2010 Act was…[to avoid] the need for a third party such as Mr Watson to have to issue two sets of proceedings…If [the Employment Tribunal is not a] “court”…the “one-stop shop” service which the 2010 Act creates for claimants bringing …claims within the jurisdiction of the civil courts…is not available to claimants raising causes of action within the exclusive jurisdiction of the ETs.”

The Court of Appeal also decided an arbitration clause in any policy applying to claims under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and Equality Act 2010 is void when liability would, or may be transferred to the employee.

Experts,  ELHR Ltd. are happy to assist, fill in our contact form for a free initial consultation should you require further  assistance.  Please call us now on 01788 432077 for an initial free consultation.


ELHR Ltd. are Employment Law & Human Resources experts who can help you to keep up to date with legislative changes, apply statute and the latest case law precedents to your business.  They limit the risk of litigation & help you & your business with best practice to ensure you gain the best you can from your team. 

We’re your 1 stop for HR & underwrite the employment law risk as long as you follow our advice.




For employees, they are able to undertake a merits assessment to evaluate whether they are likely to succeed in a claim against their employer.  ELHR Ltd. can evaluate whether there is a reasonable prospect of success. 


Contact us now for an Initial Free Consultation.  Fill in our online form, or call us on 01788 432077. 



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