Understanding the employment tribunal process

Friday October 6, 2023

Established in 1964, the Employment Tribunals exist as a judicial body committed to the preservation of workplace justice. They are the primary council responsible for deciding and settling disputes between workers and employers.

Should an employee wish to make a claim against their respective employer, it is the responsibility of the Employment Tribunal to assess the case and pass judgement. It is worth noting that, unlike courts, which traditionally follow a very formal process, tribunals are regarded as somewhat less formal. That said, the distinction is minor and the proceedings and repercussions of an employment tribunal are often of equal significance.

In the following article, we’ll outline the fundamental stages of the employment tribunal process, as well as the measures that employers can take to protect themselves in the event of a claim.

Process

For business owners and employees alike, an understanding of the employment tribunal process can prove extremely useful. Should you, or an employee, wish to submit a claim, an awareness of the correct procedure will better prepare you for the road ahead.

Of course, the process of an employment tribunal may vary, depending on the nature of the case. The following stages are designed to provide a general understanding and high-level overview only.

Though it is not mandatory, prior to making a claim employees may wish to raise their claim with a line manager or similar senior colleague. Often, this provides an opportunity for an agreement to be reached without the need for a formal claim.

Early Conciliation

The first stage of the employment tribunal process is known as early conciliation. As the name suggests, this is an opportunity for both parties to discuss the issues at hand. Typically, this is mediated by an independent conciliatory from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), who will explore whether a settlement is possible.

Claims

Once early conciliation proceedings are complete, the claim process will commence. This begins with the employee filling in an ET1 claim form, stating the nature of their dispute and the ways in which they feel they have been treated unfairly. ET1 forms can be filled in and submitted digitally. The ET1 form must be submitted within one month (minus a day) of the end of the early conciliation process.

Response

Following the submission of the ET1 claim form, it is then the responsibility of the employer to respond. This response must be presented to the Employment Tribunal within 28 days of the initial ET1 claim.

To submit an official response, an ET3 form should be completed, stating whether they contest all or part of the claim, the details of their claim defence and the details of their designated representative. Once both the claim form and response form have been submitted, the Employment Tribunal will review the information provided and decide the most appropriate course of action.

Preliminary Hearings

Sometimes, on acceptance of both ET1 and ET3 forms, the Employment Tribunal will arrange a preliminary hearing. There are a number of reasons why a preliminary hearing may be called, such as:

  • Case complications
  • Lack of clarity in either ET1 or ET3 form submissions
  • Case involves discrimination

That said, the preliminary hearing does not necessarily allude to the above; it is also an opportunity for the board to consider any pressing legal matters and clarify the direction in which the tribunal will continue.

Schedule Of Loss And Settlement Discussions

If/when the preliminary hearing has taken place, the claimant will be required to prepare a document known as a schedule of loss. The purpose of this document is to set out, in detail, the losses that the employee believes they have suffered and wish to recover. Likewise, the employer may also wish to create a counter schedule, clarifying what they believe to be the value of the claim.

At this point, the opportunity for settlement discussions will begin. This is an chance for both parties to propose settlements and attempt to reach some form of conclusion. Similarly to the initial early conciliation stage, Acas may assist here.

The Hearing

If all previous attempts to reach a mutually satisfactory settlement have been unsuccessful, a final hearing will take place. This procedure may take place in person or remotely, via video call. During an Employment Tribunal hearing, all relevant evidence, witness statements and documentation will be presented.

Usually, the claimant’s case will be presented by either themselves or a lawyer. That said, a friend or relative may address the Employment Tribunal instead, should they wish.

Judgement

Once all evidence has been presented, and both parties have stated their points, it is up to the Tribunal to reach a conclusion. This judgement will either be confirmed there and then, at the hearing, or in writing shortly thereafter.

Remedy Hearing And Compensation

Should an employee’s claim be successful, the Tribunal will state the compensation payable by the employer. If the Tribunal has yet to determine the appropriate compensation, a subsequent hearing will be required. This is known as a ‘remedy hearing’. During this interim, the employee still has the option to discuss a settlement with your employer.

Alongside the Employment Tribunal’s final judgement, they will provide instructions detailing the appeal process.

Employment Tribunal Insurance

It goes without saying that the Employment Tribunal process is often stressful and time consuming, taking an average of 18 months from start to finish. What’s more, it can be incredibly financially draining for business owners and employers. For this reason, Employment Tribunal Insurance is a necessity, protecting employers from claims and their associated risks.

Here at The HR Dept, we provide expert support to businesses large and small. Whether you’re searching for employment tribunal insurance, absence management or disciplinary and grievance assistance, we’re here to help you navigate problems as and when they arise.

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