Career Advice

An Essential Guide to Employment Tribunals: What You Need to Know

walking to an employment tribunal

Work forms a massive part of our lives. People spend as many waking hours with their colleagues each week as they do their family! So if you’re experiencing issues in your workplace it can have huge repercussions on everything from self confidence, life satisfaction, and future happiness.

But what are these ‘issues’ in terms of relating to possible employment tribunal? It could be a result of pay deductions that aren’t justifiable, or any form of discrimination (from sexual harassment to other forms of bullying or unfair demotion/missing promotions). That means that understanding the employment tribunal process is critical for all of us in the workforce here in Brighton and Hove and across the UK. Read on to learn more about it.

Be prepared for the emotion

Before we get into the nitty gritty of taking your boss to court, let’s look at the personal perspective. This is an emotional time: you’re feeling discriminated against, maybe bullied or harassed, and no doubt pretty nervous about raising these issues publicly. After all, there’s a lot of unfair stigma attached to employment tribunals and workers that hold their employers to account. But the critical word there is ‘unfair’.

We all deserve to be treated fairly, with respect, and have our employment contracts stuck to throughout our time with an employer. So, be prepared for the emotions that will be involved with this process, but don’t let it stop you from seeking justice. You deserve happiness and respect in your job. The job of the Government’s employment tribunal is to hold employers to account, so they can’t take advantage of individuals.

What is the employment tribunal?

The employment tribunal, according to the Government’s website, is ‘an independent tribunal which makes decisions in legal disputes around employment law.’. Examples of unlawful treatment, according to them, may include ‘unfair dismissal, discrimination, [and] unfair deductions from pay.’

The tribunal hears claims from anyone who feels their employer – or, indeed, their potential employer – has treated them unlawfully (in any way – it doesn’t have to fall into the above three categories!). The tribunal is an independent body and when cases go to them, it is usually an escalation from an issue that couldn’t be resolved in the meeting rooms at work. By the time it gets to the tribunal, it’s at a point that outside decisions are necessary for both parties – normally, particularly, for the worker.

This body – the employment tribunal – is the step the Government has put in place to avoid situations that can be resolved here from going straight to the judiciary of the Supreme Court, where cases that may demand a change to the Constitution take place.

How do you even get an employment tribunal started?

It’s a pretty straightforward process in terms of kicking it all off. You go to the Government’s website and fill out an ET1 form (just search it in their search bar). But how you fill out this form is important. You need to include an in depth account of your complaint, covering everything that has happened from start to finish. Side note: the Government asks for this to be completed with numbered paragraphs, in chronological order.

Next up, things get cracking: a preliminary hearing will (normally) occur before the tribunal. The point of this is for both yourself and the employer to be given an idea of what the tribunal will kick off, and how long it is likely to last. But importantly, it also gives the employer the chance to discuss a potential settlement with you – if both parties reach an agreement at this stage, you avoid pressing on to the employment tribunal – good news for everyone involved! But you should only come to this agreement if you personally feel that it solves the issue, and is fair justice for what you’ve experienced*.

Sometimes, however, agreement can’t be reached. In this case, official and relevant paperwork like your contract, payslips, notes from meetings, doctor’s certificates etc need to be prepared – because you’re going to trial. You can also collect witness details and statements, notes to help you present your case and anything else that will help.

What’s the cost of the employment tribunal?

Good news for everyone here: in mid-2016 all charges for the employment tribunal were dropped. This means that to make a claim against an employer, you won’t need to pay a cent.

Side note: if you have already gone through a tribunal and it was before July 2013, you may be able to claim a refund.

What happens at the actual tribunal?

By this point, you’re going to be pretty familiar with everything that’s happening, but if you’ve never been to court then it can still be a bit of a shock. You’ll arrive and in front of you – like a normal court – will be either a panel of three judges or a solitary judge depending on the case. You’ll have a chance to make your case (or your lawyer might do it for you), and normally a decision is reach by that day or soon thereafter.

For more information, speak to your attorney and check out the Government’s employment tribunal page on their website: Find more helpful information on all things ‘working in the UK’ on career advice page!

*This article is not intended as legal advice. When considering employment tribunal or any legal matters associated with your work, you should consult a qualified lawyer.