A RECENT university reunion with the obligatory reminiscing, set me on a train of thought regarding the changes in employment law since I began practising it in 1967. I appreciate that, for many readers, this will seem like a trip into the Dark Ages. Industrial tribunals (as they were then called) were intended to be a straightforward means of dispute resolution. There was no concept of unfair dismissal until 1971 and even when that "revolutionary" idea was introduced, the intention was that the employee and the personnel officer from his former employer would pitch up and state their respective positions briefly. Indeed, the letters from the Tribunal Office would state "most cases take half a day to be heard and if you believe that that will be insufficient, please let us know". Lawyers were not precluded but were not exactly encouraged, particularly as winning the case did not bring an award of expenses. As we now know, very few cases are concluded in less than two days and some cases have been known to run for weeks or months. Where did it all go wrong? The main culprits may be regarded as the legal profession and "Europe". The original awards made by tribunals were comparatively small and often employers would feel that the cost of legal representation was not justified. As awards increased, legal involvement became greater and proceedings more protracted. Legislation increased, often with great complexity and the requirement to follow the decisions of the European Court meant that there was greater uncertainty and therefore greater scope for argument on legal issues. For example, many of us thought that we had a passing understanding of TUPE until it was decided that a cleaner in a German bank was "an undertaking" because she was transferring along with the same bucket and mop that she had been previously using. Several learned counsel and solicitors had to rewrite completely the opinions that they had previously churned out on the subject of TUPE. Legislation to deal with the rights of employee has come a long way since the heady days of the Redundancy Payments Act 1965. One has only to take a look at the list of statutes in a standard Settlement Agreement to realise how complex the old system of "master and servant" has now become. As a practitioner who represented both employers and employees, I obviously neither completely welcome nor completely condemn the spread of legislation! Employers who did complain about the number of applications which were lodged, often - in their view at least - without merit, must be happy that the number of applications has fallen so dramatically after the introduction of fees. On the other hand, I am sure that many potentially worthwhile cases have not been presented because of lack of funds and that is not in the interest of justice. The government has, very recently, stated that it will now repeal the European Communities Act 1972. The potential exists for a tidying up and simplification of the rules governing the work place, but that should not be at the expense of some of the more useful importations from Europe which protect the human rights of employees. The annual Employment Law Conference – which David is chairing – takes place on November 17 this year at the AECC. The full-day event equips delegates with the essential information, knowhow and skills to deal with the demands of employment law and personnel management in an enjoyable way in the company of fellow professionals.You can read employment law blogs by fellow speakers Sandy Kemp of Clyde & Co, Katie Williams of Pinsent Masons, Toni McAlindin and Euan Smith, also of Pinsent Masons.