Among the common issues and causes for employees to take employers to employment tribunals, are:
- Discrimination in the workplace
- Workers’ pay rates (e.g. wage calculations)
- Employee dismissal procedures
The employment tribunal will operate independent of any government departments.
So, the panel will listen to the ‘respondent’ [employer] and the ‘claimant’ [other party] before they make a decision.
Note: Employers who lose the case may need to pay compensation or reinstate the claimant. This help guide for employers who have been taken to an employment tribunal is also available in Welsh language (Cymraeg).
Solving a Dispute without a Hearing
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) will contact an employer if someone is making a tribunal claim against them.
Acas will try to work with employers and with claimants, using ‘conciliation’. Thus, they will try to solve workplace problems to avoid them having to go to a tribunal. Employers can contact Acas for expert help and advice.
Responding to a Tribunal Claim
If conciliation fails, the employer would receive a ‘response pack’ from the tribunal. There are several ways to respond if someone makes a claim against you as an employer.
You can respond to a tribunal claim by (either):
- Completing and submitting an ET3 response form online.
- Filling in the requested information in the tribunal response pack and then returning it.
- Using Form ET3 to respond to a claim of unlawful treatment made by an employee to an employment tribunal. Fill in the document and send it to the tribunal office that is dealing with the case.
Employers will also find it useful to read guidance notes T423 before filling in the form. The guide sets out further details about the process of responding to a claim to an employment tribunal.
As a general rule, employers must respond to a claim to an employment tribunal within 28 days.
You can make a request to the tribunal for more time to respond. But, they can actually make a decision against the respondent (without the need for a hearing) for a late, or absent, response.
Offering a ‘Settlement Agreement’
In most cases, making an offer of a compensation payment to the claimant is likely to settle the case. Employers can offer a settlement agreement at any time during the proceedings.
Getting Help and Legal Advice
It is wise to find a legal adviser if an employee, job applicant, or trade union member makes a claim against you as a UK employer.
The employment tribunal enquiry line cannot offer legal advice. But, they can offer general guidance on how the employment tribunal process works.
Employment Tribunal Customer Contact Centre
Telephone: 0300 123 1024 (England and Wales)
Telephone: 0300 303 5176 (Welsh language)
Telephone: 0300 790 6234 (Scotland)
Textphone: 18001 0300 123 1024 (England and Wales)
Textphone: 18001 0300 790 6234 (Scotland)
Check the cost of making phone calls.
Note: The Office of Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal operate independent judicial bodies in Northern Ireland. They would deal with employment matters and Industrial Tribunals in Northern Ireland.
Preparations for a Hearing
The respondent would receive a letter confirming the date and venue of the hearing. You should get the letter at least two weeks in advance of the hearing. It will give you time to prepare any relevant documents and arrange witnesses.
Attending a Preliminary Hearing
It is not uncommon for a judge to set up an initial hearing. It provides an opportunity for the judge to decide:
- A fixed date, time, and venue for the hearing.
- How much time to allocate for the hearing and how long it should take.
Note: The tribunal will confirm if you should give any evidence, or provide extra information, at the preliminary hearing.
Asking the Claimant for Documents
As the respondent in the case, you would be able to ask the claimant to provide certain types of documentation to help. Likewise, the claimant can also make a request for documentation from their employer.
Typical examples of requested documents might include:
- A contract of employment
- Pay slips
- Notes taken from any relevant discussions or meetings
- The details of any related pension scheme
As a rule, the tribunal would issue an order that sets out a
timetable for exchanging documents. The letter would notify you of how many copies of each document you must take to the hearing.
Organising Witnesses for a Hearing
Any witnesses that you take to the hearing should be able to provide evidence that relates ‘directly’ to the case.
The tribunal can order witnesses to attend the hearing if they refuse. You would need to apply in writing to the tribunal office that is dealing with the case, and give them:
- The name and the address of the witness.
- An explanation of what the witness might say and how it would help the case.
- Details of why the witness refused to attend the hearing (if you know it).
Note: In most cases, you would have the responsibility of paying expenses for any witnesses that you present.
Procedures at the Hearing
As a rule, they will hold the tribunal at an employment tribunal office near to the area where you work. HMCTS have a list of addresses and contact details for employment tribunal offices and hearing centres in England, Wales, and Scotland.
Remember to take any supporting documents that you need to support your case. As the respondent, you would not be able to claim for your own expenses for attending the hearing.
You get an opportunity to present your case to the tribunal and the claimant would be able to present theirs. You can get someone else to present your case if you prefer (e.g. a lawyer, a family member, or a trusted friend).
Hearing procedures generally consist of a series of questions and answers. Besides the judge, you may also get asked questions by:
- The claimant (person taking an employer to an employment tribunal)
- Two other tribunal members sitting on the panel (for certain types of tribunals)
Getting the Decision
After the hearing, you should get a decision on the case by post within few weeks. Even so, it is not uncommon to get the decision when the hearing has finished.
Winning the Case
It is unlikely that you would be awarded compensation, even if you win the case. But, you can ask the tribunal to award costs if the claimant’s case had no hope of success, or they acted unreasonably.
What Happens if You Lose the Case?
Losing the case means the tribunal can order certain things. What they force you to do would depend on the type of employment tribunal you were taken to. But, typical examples of correction and penalties, include:
- Paying the expense costs of witness.
- Reinstating the claimant in their previous job (or paying compensation if that is not possible).
- Paying compensation for a loss of earnings or damages.
Having to Pay Compensation
In United Kingdom, the most common outcome of an employment tribunal is paying compensation. Even though there can be limits to the amount of money awarded, there is no limit in cases of discrimination by employers.
As a rule, the tribunal would work out the awarded amount based on financial loss incurred by the person due to the actions of their employer. Paying the full amount within fourteen (14) days means you would avoid interest charges on the judgment.
Note: Employers can be taken to court and forced to pay compensation awards. Not paying means you can also receive a fine and be named online by the government.
Paying Back State Benefits
Some claimants will be claiming benefits while taking their employer to the tribunal. If so, you could be forced to pay back (any):
The main purpose of this is to prevent the welfare benefits being paid twice. The tribunal and the Compensation Recovery Unit would notify you of what to do and how much you would need to pay.
Disputing an Employment Tribunal Decision
Losing the case means you can ask the tribunal to reconsider the decision. You would need to write to the tribunal office, stating the reason for getting it reconsidered, within fourteen (14) days of getting the decision.
Legitimate grounds for disagreeing with a tribunal decision include:
- The tribunal made a error in the way that it reached a decision.
- They failed to inform you about the hearing.
- Some new evidence has become available since the hearing took place.
Appealing to the Employment Appeal Tribunal
You can also make an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) if you believe the employment tribunal made a legal mistake.
Employment Tribunal Legislation in UK
Employers must follow Employment tribunal procedure rules and processes. The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary offer guidance and practice directions providing more information on serving documents and how to postpone hearings.