Practice Directions support the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) Rules of Procedure and provide guidance about what the SBT expects of the parties and, in turn, what the parties can expect from the SBT. They assist in understanding the Rules.
The Early Resolution Program provides parties to an appeal before the SBT with an early opportunity to try to resolve the appeal through participation in a variety of alternative dispute resolution processes, referred to as "Early Resolution Opportunities", before the formal SBT hearing process begins.
The Early Resolution Program allows the SBT to identify and implement early opportunities to resolve cases in an efficient, effective and fair manner, prior to the formal adjudicative hearing of the appeal. In this way, the SBT can provide more timely and focused hearings, reduce the costs associated with the full hearing process, and, address any case backlog issues. Participating in an Early Resolution Opportunity session can also assist with: narrowing and clarifying the issue(s) on the appeal, allowing the parties an opportunity to exchange and share information, fully resolving the issue(s), or withdrawal of the appeal.
The SBT is authorized to provide alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, described under this Early Resolution Program as "Early Resolution Opportunities", on the consent of the parties.
If a party objects to participating in an Early Resolution Opportunity, or if the appeal is not resolved through the Early Resolution Opportunity, the appeal will be heard through the SBT adjudicative hearing process.
An "Early Resolution Opportunity" refers to a dispute resolution session held to try to resolve an appeal filed with the SBT, before an SBT hearing takes place, and includes: in-person or telephone pre-hearing conferences, in-person or telephone settlement discussions, negotiations, conciliations, and mediations.
An Early Resolution Opportunity session is a private and confidential process. This means that any information, evidence, material or documentation raised or produced during the session cannot be referred to, discussed or relied upon directly or indirectly by any party that participated in the session.
Only the parties to an appeal hearing before the SBT can participate in an Early Resolution Opportunity session.
A party may choose to participate in an Early Resolution Opportunity session with a legal or non-legal representative. If a representative agrees to represent a party who has a date scheduled for the Early Resolution Opportunity session, the representative must ensure that he or she is available to participate on that date.
Once a date has been scheduled for an Early Resolution Opportunity session, the session will not be rescheduled unless there are special circumstances to reschedule. For example, where a party fails to attend at the scheduled Early Resolution Opportunity session without first providing a reason for his or her non-attendance, or where a party requests that the session be rescheduled to accommodate his or her legal or non-legal representative, the session will not be rescheduled.
An Early Resolution Opportunity session will be held where all parties to the appeal before the SBT agree to participate in the session.
'Good faith participation' means that parties are available to participate on the pre-scheduled date for their Early Resolution Opportunity session, and are fully prepared to proceed at that time.
A "Notice of Early Resolution Opportunity Session", sent to the parties to the appeal, will contain:
In deciding to participate in an Early Resolution Opportunity session, a party may consider the following factors:
Parties involved in an Early Resolution Opportunity session may send written submissions to the SBT and to any other party(ies) participating in the session setting out a description of the issue(s) on the appeal and the position and interests of the party.
If a party intends to send a written submission, it should be sent to the SBT and to any other party(ies) on the appeal before the scheduled date for the Early Resolution Opportunity session.
Where a party objects to participating in an Early Resolution Opportunity, the objecting party must notify the SBT of the objection by contacting their Appeal Resolution Officer within 10 days of receipt of the Notice of Early Resolution Opportunity session.
Where a party to the appeal objects to participating in an Early Resolution Opportunity session, or a party fails to attend at a scheduled Early Resolution Opportunity session, the SBT will not proceed with the session and the appeal will continue on to a hearing before the SBT unless special circumstances exist to adjourn the Early Resolution Opportunity session.
In addition to resolving the issue(s) on the appeal on a full and final basis, participation in an Early Resolution Opportunity can enable parties to: