Can a Tribunal hearing continue without an interpreter when one is requested?
In the case of Hak v St Christopher’s Fellowship the claimant, who had some understanding of English, requested the assistance of an interpreter in advance of the tribunal hearing. Unfortunately there were no interpreters available on the day of the hearing. The claimant was asked at the outset of the hearing whether he wanted to proceed without an interpreter. He confirmed that he did and, when his claim was struck out, he appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
The EAT held that a reasonable opportunity had been afforded to the Claimant to have an interpreter as he had been given the choice of proceeding with the hearing, without an interpreter, or waiting until an interpreter could be found. Provided the Judge was satisfied that the litigant understood the choices available, this was sufficient.
It should be noted that, where a litigant’s understanding of English is poor, a choice for the hearing to go ahead without an interpreter should not be given and the hearing should only proceed once an interpreter has been sourced.