How do I make a claim to an Employment Tribunal?

You must submit your claim using an ET1 Form which is available at www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk or from your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. You can submit your claim online through the ET’s website and it will go automatically to the Tribunal Office which will deal with your case. There is no need to send a copy of your form by post, but you should print off a copy for your records.

In Scotland, all claims are initially processed by the Glasgow tribunal office and you should send your claim to that office. In England and Wales, you can find the details of the nearest Employment Tribunal Office to a particular postcode on the ET website above.

It is advisable to check that your claim form has been received by telephoning the relevant ET office. Sending your claim to the wrong office may cause a delay and/or result in your claim being time barred. If you don't know where to send it, or do not know the postcode for the place where you worked, call the ET enquiry line on 0845 795 9775.

How soon must I make my claim to an Employment Tribunal?

Most claims to Employment Tribunals must be made within very strict time limits. In most cases the Tribunal must receive your claim within three months of the event being complained of. This three months begins with the date your employment ended or when the matter you are complaining about happened. This means that if it happened on 1 May, the Tribunal must receive your claim on or before 31 July.

If your claim is received outside the time limit, the tribunal will not be able to consider it unless there are exceptional reasons for the delay. It is your responsibility to ensure that the Tribunal Office receives your claim within the relevant time limit.

How do I respond to a claim against me or my company?

You will be notified of a claim against you by the Tribunal Office and will be sent a response form (ET3). You must fill in and return the form to the relevant Tribunal Office to reach it by the date referred to on the front page of the form you are sent. It is your responsibility to ensure that the Tribunal Office receives the response within the relevant time limit. That is, 28 days from the date you were sent a copy of the claimant's claim form.

As with the ET1 form, you can make your response online through the website above and the form will go automatically to the Tribunal Office dealing with the case. There is no need to send a copy of your form or any other documents by post if you do this but you should keep a copy of your response form for your records. You can also post it back to the relevant Tribunal Office. Our employment law team would be able to assist you with responding to any claims.

What happens if the response is not received in time or the tribunal does not accept it?

If you do not send in your response within the time limit or your response does not provide the information required, the Tribunal will not accept your response and you may not be able to defend the claim.

In these circumstances, the Tribunal can consider issuing a default judgment. A default judgment allows an Employment Judge to give a decision about the claim without the claimant having to go to a hearing. You should seek advice if a default judgment is issued against you.

What happens at the Hearing?

The Hearing takes place before a presiding Employment Judge, who must be an advocate or experienced solicitor and 2 lay members drawn from industry, or commerce.

The proceedings are not intended to be as formal as a court. In particular, there are no wigs or gowns and the parties remain seated throughout. Witnesses do, however, give their evidence under oath or affirmation. In addition, with both parties very often legally represented, proceedings have become more formal than originally envisaged. Most witnesses before a Tribunal do find them to be quite formal.

At the beginning of the hearing there are no opening statements as such. However, the Employment Judge may ask one or two brief questions to clarify the exact nature of the dispute. The party on whom the onus lies will then call their first witness.

For example, in an unfair dismissal case where the dismissal is admitted the respondent will usually lead evidence first.

As in other court procedures, this takes the form of the party’s legal representative asking a series of questions (sometimes known as examination-in-chief). This can take some time as the party’s representative will wish to ensure that the Tribunal is fully aware of the facts of the case. In England and Wales, there is a well established practice for the Employment Judge to call for written statements of evidence to be exchanged in advance of the Tribunal Hearing. Accordingly, rather than carrying out an examination-in-chief, the witness statement will be read out or taken as read. The use of witness statements in Employment Tribunals is far less common in Scotland. Where a party has legal representation a list of documents which will be relied upon at the Hearing now require to be intimated to the other party within 14 days before any such Hearing.

The party who has given evidence (or whose statement has been read out) is then cross-examined by the opposing party’s representative who will put their version of events to that witness. They will also be trying to clarify certain points. The representative of the party who called the witness then has the opportunity to ask any further questions to clarify any points raised in cross-examination. This is known as re-examination.

At the end of questioning of each witness the members of the Tribunal may ask questions. The same process is followed for any other witnesses who may be appearing on behalf of the party on whom the onus lies.

The roles are then reversed and the other party will then lead evidence from their own witnesses.

After evidence has been led by both sides to the dispute closing submissions are made by each party.

When do I receive the judgment?

Once all the evidence has been heard, both sides can sum up before the tribunal retires to consider their judgment. Unless the tribunal 'reserves' its judgment, the Employment Judge will announce the judgment at the end of the hearing. If the judgment is reserved you will receive it in writing at a later date.

How much can the Tribunal award?

(For dismissals and claims post 1/02/2011)

Please click here to view table.

N.B. There is no limit on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal where the employee is dismissed unfairly or selected for redundancy for reasons connected with health and safety matters or public interest disclosure.

Further information is also available from: -

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) on 08457 474747 or www.acas.org.uk

The Employment Tribunals Service at www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk