Employment Tribunals

The role of an employment tribunal is when you are unable to resolve a dispute with your employer. Here we discuss your entitlements if you win your claim and what happens should you lose.

What is an Employment Tribunal?

Employment tribunals hear cases where a dispute has arisen in the workplace between employee and employer and it cannot be resolved internally. They are less formal than other kinds of court procedures but you do have to have to give evidence on oath and you can be prosecuted for perjury if you lie.

Cases are usually heard by a panel of three people – a legally qualified chairperson and two ‘lay members’. The lay members use their own employment experiences in judging the facts. Sometimes a chairperson may sit on their own, for example, to hear any legal arguments.

Do I Need to go to an Employment Tribunal and Will it Cost me?

Where possible, you should always try to resolve any work related disputes in work itself, either directly with your employer or perhaps via a union representative (if you’re a union member) or your HR department. If that’s not possible, you should then contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or ACAS for specific advice and to find out if you have reasonable grounds for success. Initially, you should follow your Employer’s Grievance and disciplinary procedure as, in most cases, a tribunal will not consider your case unless you have followed the correct procedures internally first of all. You need to establish that you are within the time limits as there is only a certain period between when the dispute took place and when a tribunal would consider your claim. In most cases, this is within 3 months of the incident occurring, although it can vary from case to case. There is no cost for making a claim at a tribunal unless you employ the services of a solicitor who will require payment.

How do I Start The Process?

You need to complete form ET1 which you can get from your local Jobcentre Plus, ACAS, an Employment Tribunal office or the Employment Tribunal’s website. Alternatively, you can pick one up from your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau and a staff member will help you complete it. The form will give information about you, your employer and your complaint and it will confirm that you have followed your employer’s internal grievance procedure. If you are complaining of Unfair Dismissal, it is not necessary for you to have used the grievance procedure but your employer should have followed the correct disciplinary procedure.

You then have to send the form to the Employment Tribunal’s central office. They will send a copy to your employer who then has 28 days in which to respond.

Will my Claim Take Place?

The tribunal will review all the facts and check whether you can make a claim. If there’s any doubt, there will be a preliminary hearing, usually in front of the chairperson.

The tribunal can decide that your claim isn’t likely to succeed and can order a pre-hearing review to discuss the issue. If they think you’re unlikely to succeed, they can ask you for a deposit of up to £500 which you will lose if you do not win your claim.

If the case goes ahead, ‘case management discussions’ can be held. At this stage, the tribunal may want to ask you and/or your employer to provide them with further information in order to clarify any issues they may be uncertain about.

Can The Issue be Settled Before The Hearing Takes Place?

It’s important to remember that you may not win your claim so if you can resolve the issue satisfactorily before the hearing, it may be in your best interests to do so. ACAS can offer free and impartial conciliation to both you and your employer which may result in an earlier resolution that satisfies both parties. The conciliation period is usually for a maximum period of 7 weeks for a wages dispute, 13 weeks for unfair dismissal and open-ended for discrimination claims.

What Happens at The Hearing?

The tribunal will let you know the date of the hearing. You do not have to appear in person but you must tell the tribunal if you want the hearing to take place in your absence.

In preparation, remember to take all documentation with you to the hearing in support of your claim and arrange it into date order to enable you to describe the series of events which led up to your claim in the order in which they occurred. If you’re going to use any documents, you must tell the other side (your employer or their representatives) and give them 7 days’ notice that you intend to do this.

At the hearing, you (or your representatives) and your employer both put your cases to the panel and answer questions. The panel then comes to a decision.

You are permitted to take witnesses to the hearing to provide evidence in support of your claim. If they refuse to go, the tribunal does have the power to order their attendance.

If you attend the hearing on your own, the panel will try to make things as clear and simple for you to understand as possible. The procedures are quite informal. Unlike other courts, tribunals don’t normally order any side to pay costs unless they decide you or your employer acted unreasonably in bringing the case or if any representatives at the hearing behaved unreasonably.

If You Win

The tribunal can order your employer to pay compensation costs which is unlimited for discrimination or dismissal on health and safety grounds.

However, it’s important to remember that a successful claim is not to punish the employer but to provide you with compensation for the loss of earnings for the time you have been off work. In other words, you don’t get awarded additional money for hurt feelings and you may have to try and reduce the loss of earnings by taking another job in the meantime or by seeking Jobseeker’s Allowance or another kind of benefit that might be appropriate. The tribunal can, in some dismissal cases, order your employer to give you your job back, providing you want it back.

If You Lose

You can ask the tribunal to review its decision, although grounds for this are limited. It’s also possible to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which only considers points of law, so you can’t appeal if you think the tribunal simply got its facts wrong. In this case, you have the right to legal aid.

For more information and advice, you should contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or ACAS.

Last Updated on 30 June 2021

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