Companies can be taken to an employment tribunal by either their employees or someone related to their work (such as a job applicant or trade union) where they feel there is an employment issue. This can include issues over discrimination, pay, unfair dismissal, redundancy and health and safety. A decision from an employment is binding on the relevant parties. Employment tribunals can involve complicated issues and taking specialist legal advice can assist you to make sure you present your case as well as possible. Our expert employment lawyers can guide and advise you on all aspects of employment tribunal and represent you throughout the whole process.
The initial process
There is no longer a fee for a claimant to bring an employment claim. However, this free access does not prevent adverse cost orders being made against a claimant that is not successful so there is still some deterrent for unwarranted actions.
Claims must be made within three months less one day from the date of the incident that the claim relates to. Before the matter progresses to a tribunal hearing the parties involved will be contacted by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to try and help resolve the problem between the parties via mediation methods. This is known as conciliation and generally lasts between one week and a month. Where this route is not successful then ACAS will inform the court that conciliation has been unsuccessfully attempted. The respondent is then set a "response pack" detailing the claim that has been made against them. The respondent must respond to this either online, by filling in the response pack or downloading a response form. Generally, a response must be made within 28 days however you can ask for more time. If there is no response or one is sent late then there is the risk of the tribunal finding against the respondent without a hearing. If at any time the respondent wishes to settle the case they can offer a settlement agreement giving the claimant compensation.
It is vital that the case is carefully planned and each aspect of the allegations against the respondent is understood and considered. This is where our specialist solicitors can assist to ensure the right outcome is achieved.
The parties are given at least 14 days' notice of the hearing and must then prepare any documentation and witnesses that are required to attend to give evidence. Sometimes a preliminary hearing is necessary to determine matters such as the length of the hearing. If parties are expected to provide any evidence at this preliminary hearing then they will be notified.
In preparation of the hearing, you can request documentation from the claimant such as employment contracts, pay slips and details of pension schemes as well as notes from relevant meetings. The tribunal will detail the relevant timetable for exchanging this information. Witnesses can give evidence that is directly relevant. It is also possible to request the tribunal to order a witness must attend where they are refusing to do so voluntarily. Generally the respondent will have to pay the witness's expenses.
The hearing takes place at an employment tribunal office that is nearest to the place of work. A respondent cannot claim for their expenses. Both parties present their cases to the tribunal and can have a lawyer do this on their behalf. The judge and claimant can question the employer and in some cases two other tribunal members.
It is worth bearing in mind that the claimant may be unrepresented, which can put an extra burden on the respondent. It is best to be as co-operative as possible since shows them as being a reasonable employer.
The decision and its consequences
The tribunal will send their decision by post after the hearing within a few weeks. It is possible for interim measures to be imposed before a decision to prevent conduct that could cause irreparable damage before a verdict is given. Sometimes the tribunal will give their decision at the time of the hearing. Where the respondent wins the case they will generally not be awarded any compensation but can be awarded costs where the claimant had either brought a case that had no prospect of success or they were acting unreasonably.
Where the respondent loses then the tribunal can make certain orders against them. Depending on the case this can include:
- Paying damages or loss of earnings.
- Paying compensation where the claimant cannot be reinstated in their job.
- Financial penalties ranging from £100 to £5000 depending on the respondent's finances.
- Re-employing the claimant in the same role.
- Paying witness expenses.
- Repay Jobseeker's allowance, Income Support or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimed by the claimant during the case to prevent them being paid twice.
The most likely outcome is compensation although this can be limited in most cases other than those of discrimination. Generally the amount is calculated based on the financial loses of the claimant due to the actions of the respondent. Interest will be added to this from the day the judgment is received but this is not owed where the compensation is paid in full within 14 days.
Appeals and reconsiderations
Where a tribunal makes a decision against the respondent then they can ask them to reconsider it in writing within 14 days of receiving the decision. There must be a good reason to ask for them to reconsider their decision such as not being informed of the hearing, new evidence now being available since the hearing or the tribunal erring in their decision-making process.
It is also possible to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal where it is felt that a legal mistake was made by the tribunal.
Contact our Employment Tribunal Solicitors Mayfair and throughout London today
At Lewis Nedas, our Employment Law Solicitors have over 25 years’ experience advising and representing national and international companies. Our Employment Lawyers have joined the Office Essential Network, which is a specialist organisation aimed at assisting young start-up businesses requiring advice on employment issues, including litigation before the employment tribunal.