3 Things You Need to Know About Restricted Reporting Orders

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What is a restricted reporting order?

A restricted reporting order (RRO) is designed to protect the privacy and anonymity of the specified parties, witnesses or other persons who are mentioned in an employment tribunal claim, where a hearing to decide that claim would normally be held in public.

Under rule 50 of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure 2013 an employment tribunal may, at any stage of the proceedings, and either on its own initiative or following an application, make orders with a view to preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of those proceedings, so far as it considers necessary in the interests of justice or in order to protect the Convention rights of any person in the circumstances identified in sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996, which includes:

  • confidentiality
  • national security
  • sexual misconduct
  • disability (where evidence is of a personal nature).

Before making a RRO, an employment tribunal will have to give full weight to the principle of open justice and the Convention right to freedom of expression.

A tribunal can make a full RRO on its own initiative without a hearing, and before the parties have had the opportunity to make representations. It will then be for a party who objects, or any other person with a legitimate interest, to apply for the order to be revoked or discharged.

A RRO must specify:

  • the persons whose identity is protected and may (but need not) specify the particular identifying matter whose publication is prohibited
  • the duration of the order which should not extend beyond the promulgation of the decision on liability.  However, an employment tribunal can make an RRO that outlasts proceedings.

A tribunal must display notification that an RRO has been made on the tribunal listings notice board and on the door of the room in which the proceedings affected by the order are taking place.  An RRO does not automatically expire if a claim is withdrawn.

Can you challenge a restricted reporting order?

Any party, or other person, with a legitimate interest, who did not have the opportunity to make representations before a RRO was made, may apply in writing for it to be revoked or discharged.  This can be done by either:

  • written representations
  • at a hearing.

The category of other person with a legitimate interest could enable the Press to challenge the making of such orders.

What happens if there is a breach of a restricted reporting order?

A party who publishes information in breach of an RRO is a criminal offence and is punishable with a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale on summary conviction.

However, it is a defence if publication took place when the publisher was not aware, and neither suspected, nor had reason to suspect, that an offence was being committed.