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Employment tribunals: Legal information and advice for businesses

Thousands of employees take legal action against British businesses every year. In just three months in 2015, there were over 25,000 claims at employment tribunals in the UK.

As the nuances of employment law arguably continue to move in favour of the employee, it is vital that you understand the system and the way it operates. It is possible to take steps to reduce the chances of your company being taken to an employment tribunal, and to lean on expert lawyers should it happen.

If you find yourself in either of these situations, please contact First4lawyers. Our expert business solicitors offer specialist advice to help you defend yourself against a claim. We can also help put procedures in place to help you avoid such cases altogether.

What are employment tribunals?

An employment tribunal is an independent judicial body in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its purpose is to resolve disputes between employees and employers. The types of claim your employees may take to a tribunal include, or relate to:

  • Unfair dismissal
  • Wrongful dismissal
  • Unequal pay
  • Deductions from wages
  • Discrimination claims (such as gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age, or disability)

What is the correct process for responding to an employment tribunal claim?

If your employee has approached you about their grievance and the issue hasn’t been settled, and you have gone through ACAS early conciliation without successful resolution, they can file an employment tribunal claim.

You will receive a copy of the ET3 form that you must fill out and return within 28 days of the date the form was sent to your address. In failing to do so, you could risk losing your right to contest the case.

The details of your response make up the case you will be putting to the tribunal as your defence, so it can be a good idea to reach out to an experienced solicitor, such as those available through First4lawyers, to make sure the process is followed correctly. You can ask for an extension beyond the 28-day period, as long as you have good reason.

As the employer, what should I do to prepare for the hearing?

When an employee makes a tribunal claim against you, you can increase your chances of a successful outcome by preparing properly beforehand. A good solicitor can:

  • Check for flaws on the application – For example, if your employee (the claimant) has worked for you for less than two years, their claim may be inadmissible (unless it involves discrimination). 
  • Prove the claim arose from a genuine misunderstanding – For example, you may wish to explain why the employee did not receive the promotion they were expecting.
  • Suggest offering a compromise agreement – This involves offering compensation to resolve the issue early and prevent further costs (even straightforward cases can drag on for months).
  • Prepare evidence and provide context to prove what happened – This could include relevant aspects of employment contracts or employee handbooks.
  • Seek further particulars of the claim from the other side – Check to see if there are any further allegations that your employees can make against you.
  • Exchange documents with the claimant in advance of the hearing – This is normal practice that should be followed.
  • Organise witnesses – You can bring witnesses who are able to present evidence that relates directly to the case.

What can I expect from the hearing itself?

You, or your business solicitor, will present your case. Then your employee or their representative will present their case against you to the tribunal.

As part of the process, you (the respondent) and the claimant may receive questions from a judge or other tribunal members.

When will I know of the outcome of the tribunal?

You’ll normally receive notification of the decision by post a few days or weeks after the hearing. In certain cases, you may also be given the decision at the tribunal hearing.

I need advice regarding employment tribunals – what should I do?

If you need any help or advice regarding employment tribunals, it is highly advisable that you take the necessary steps to protect your interests.

When you talk to First4lawyers, we will assign business solicitors with expert knowledge in building effective defences against employment claims. They can also help you put policies in place that help to prevent such claims from going to a tribunal.

For professional, honest, expert legal advice – please make contact with First4lawyers. If you’d rather that we call you, fill out the Request a Callback form at the top of this page, or complete our enquiry form.

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