Merger proposals for tribunals
Published 25/01/2013 | 12:10
Tribunals for settling disputes could be merged in Northern Ireland to make them more efficient.
The judicial bodies deal with issues such as employment grievances and offer protection against unfair treatment.
Justice Minister David Ford said his department recorded around 16,000 cases a year.
"The current tribunal system in Northern Ireland is, however, fragmented and complicated and for many individuals tribunals are their only contact with the justice system," he said.
"It is essential, therefore, that they are effective, efficient, accessible and independent."
Mr Ford said his proposals would support the earlier resolution of disputes or, if not possible, a more simple and accessible tribunal system.
He signalled the possible merger of most bodies into one integrated structure with enhanced independence under Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan.
Industrial tribunals determine claims in employment matters, such as unfair dismissal or breach of contract, as well as discrimination on sex or race grounds. Fair employment tribunals adjudicate on complaints of discrimination on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion.
The proposals are outlined in the consultation document entitled Future Administration And Structure Of Tribunals In Northern Ireland.
The consultation will run for 12 weeks until April 19.