What is an Employment Tribunal?
An Employment Tribunal hears claims from people who believe their employer or potential employer has treated them unlawfully. It’s a part of HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
Employment Tribunals only deal with cases relating to employment law issues, which includes unfair and wrongful dismissals, discrimination, equal pay, and deductions from wages.
What Can an Employment Tribunal Do?
The Employment Tribunal has the power to order compensation in all cases. In cases of discrimination and whistleblowing, the tribunal can also award compensation based on injury to feelings. It also has the power to increase compensation awards by 25% if it finds the employer has not complied with the ACAS Code of Practice.
In unfair dismissal cases, the Employment Tribunal has discretionary power to reinstate an employee to their old job or order the employer to provide a new job for the employee.
In discrimination at work cases, the Tribunal has the power to make a recommendation that an employer changes its practices to benefit an employee. This could be introducing an equal opportunities policy or providing awareness training to its staff. Any recommendation made by the Tribunal must benefit the person making the claim (the claimant) so a recommendation won’t usually be made if the claimant is no longer working for the employer because they resigned or were dismissed.
Employment Tribunal Time Limits
If you have a claim against your employer, you must bring this claim within 3 months. This is 3 months from when the dismissal, act or omission occurred. The 3-month deadline is extended while you complete the ACAS Early Conciliation Process which you must do before you take your case to the Employment Tribunal.
If you don’t comply with these time limits, you may find that the Employment Tribunal will not hear your claim. The Employment Tribunal does have some discretion to extend time limits, but the rules on time limits are generally quite strict.
The rules around extensions of time limits are complicated so you should get specialist legal advice from our Employment Solicitors.
ACAS Early Conciliation
Before you can bring a claim at an Employment Tribunal, you must register the complaint with ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) and go through the Early Conciliation process. During this period, ACAS will help you and your employer try to reach an agreement without going to an Employment Tribunal.
How to Make a Claim at an Employment Tribunal
To make a claim to an Employment Tribunal, you must complete an ET1 form. This is where you will set out the details of your claim.
If the Employment Tribunal can hear the claim, they will send papers to the employer to respond to the claim. If the employer responds within the specified time limits (they usually do), the Employment Tribunal will usually conduct a Preliminary Hearing. This is either by phone or in person. The Tribunal will discuss any preliminary issues during this Hearing and list the matter for Final Hearing. The Tribunal will also set directions for exchanging documents and witness statements, as well as other procedural steps. These directions are usually made in a Case Management Order from the Employment Tribunal.
Employment Tribunal Hearings
The thought of going to a Tribunal is very worrying for many people. But by understanding the process a bit more, you can hopefully feel less stressed about the possibility of going to a Tribunal Hearing.
Employment Tribunals usually start at 10 am although sometimes the Judge may request some reading time. There will be a panel of people at the Hearing and how the panel is made up will depend on the nature of the Hearing. In standard unfair dismissal cases or breach of employment contract cases, the Judge will hear your case on their own.
In more complex employment law cases such as whistleblowing or discrimination, the panel will be made up of a Judge along with two “wing members”. One of the two wing members will have an employer background and the other, an employee background.
You can decide to represent yourself or instruct an Employment Solicitor or Barrister for the Hearing and your employer also has the same choice.
As the Hearing proceeds, witnesses will be questioned on their witness statements.
Once the evidence is given, any closing submissions can be made before the Tribunal retires to make its decision. The Judgement and its reasoning can be announced at the Hearing but is usually sent to both parties in writing.
Final Hearings are almost always public, and the Judgement will be posted on the Employment Tribunal’s website.
Appeal an Employment Tribunal Judgement
You can make an appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal but only if the Employment Tribunal has made a mistake on a point of law or has made a decision no reasonable Tribunal would have made.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal will decide whether the Employment Tribunal made a mistake, and make a ruling. If a mistake has been made the case will be sent back to the Employment Tribunal for them to revise their original decision.
Making a claim at an Employment Tribunal can be complicated and stressful. Using an experienced Employment Solicitor can help you to achieve a better outcome. Call us for an initial discussion and we’ll be happy to help you.
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