What is an Employment Tribunal?

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis


30 Oct 2018


Employment tribunals are independent tribunals in England, Wales and Scotland. They have jurisdiction and authority to hear disputes between employees and employers.

The aim of the tribunal is to resolve disputes over employment rights. The employment tribunal addresses issues surrounding unpaid wages, unfair dismissals and redundancy payments.

Employment tribunals share some similarities with regular court proceedings. For example, tribunals are not in the position to offer legal advice. They are also required to collect evidence and conduct interviews under oath. The proceedings are also open to the public.

What is the employment tribunal process?

Employees can either make a claim against you or have a claim made against them by you, the employer. The first step on the road to an employment tribunal is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

Acas is a free provider of impartial advice and information to you and employees in all aspects of employment law. It provides conciliation advice to resolve issues before the need to involve an employment tribunal. Its main goal is to reach a beneficial agreement to avoid the potential costs, time and stress of an employment tribunal. Acas will contact you if someone wants to make a claim against you.

If you and your employee cannot resolve the problem with Acas, they’ll refer the case to the employment tribunal. Your employee will start that process by filling the ET1 claim form with a reference number provided by Acas.

If both employer and employee cannot resolve the problem with ACAS, then they’ll refer the case to the employment tribunal. Your employee will start that process by filling the ET1 claim form with a reference number which ACAS provides. The ET1 should include all relevant information about the particular event from the point of view of the employee. After the tribunal has received and reviewed the ET1 form, they’ll send you a copy of the claim with an ET3 form to respond. 

After the tribunal has made a decision, depending on the verdict you can either take some time to reach a settlement with your employees or find out more about the appeal process. It’s worth remembering that you can only appeal if there was a problem with a point of law in your case.

Employment tribunal fees

At a point, there were costs associated with employment tribunals, but the supreme court deemed the fees unlawful in July 2017. The tribunal is now offering refunds for tribunal fees to people that paid for an employment tribunal or employment appeal tribunal between July 2013 and July 2017.

Employment tribunal rules of procedures

As most people cannot afford legal representation, the employment tribunals were set up for ordinary people to be able to face the tribunal alone. However, if you do have a representative, they’ll conduct all the case preparations and act as your representative in the tribunal hearing.

Once you arrive at the tribunal (early), you’ll get checked in by the clerk at the reception. They'll ask if you have representation, witnesses or any other supporting documents. You'll then get shown to the waiting room which is separate from where your employees will be waiting.

Employment tribunal forms

Gov.UK has made it easy to apply for an employment tribunal. Using the search feature on their site you can navigate your way to the employment tribunal page.

The page explains who they are, what they do and what the process involves. You'll find a downloadable link to the documents page, which has everything you need to begin the employment tribunal process.

There are eight main tribunal forms available depending on the type of claim. The forms available includes;

  1. Form 1/2CR – This is a refund form for claimants that have previously paid employment tribunal fees in relation to their claim.
  2. Form 3S – This is a refund form for multiple claimants that have previously paid to the employment tribunal.
  3. Form ET/ETA – Bulk form for reimbursement for multiple claims.
  4. Form ET1 – Single claimant making a claim to an employment tribunal.
  5. Form ET1A – Multiple claimants can use this form to make claims against you.
  6. Form ET3 – You should use this form to respond to a claim made by an employee to the employment tribunal.
  7. Form T439 – A signed declaration from self-employed witnesses claiming loss of earnings. Claim can include travel expenses, loss of earning, accommodation expenses and more.
  8. Form TSF4 – Witnesses in full-time can use this form to claim for attending the tribunal. Claim can include travel expenses, loss of earning, accommodation expenses and more.

Employment tribunal timeline

In normal circumstances, employees have up to three months after ‘the event’ to make a claim to the tribunal. Once they’ve have filled out and submitted the ET1 form, they should receive a response within 28 days.

The wait time between your employee submitting the ET1 form, you responding with the ET3 form and the actual tribunal hearing can differ depending on location, company financials, availability of the tribunal, the type of claim and more.

In most cases, a standard claim that only needs a one-day hearing can take as long as four to six months from when your employee submits their ET1 form. On the other hand, claims that involve discrimination could take considerably longer.

Before submitting the claim form, you should try to get as much information as you can about your rights as an employer. You can find information about the employment tribunal process online. You could also speak to an experienced adviser or representative.

It can be difficult to work out your allocated time limit. If you have a representative or an adviser present, they can help you with this. You can also contact the Acas helpline for more information about your proceedings.

Expert support

For more information regarding employment tribunals, check out our in-depth piece on employment tribunal proceedings and remedies. We also compiled a basic overview of the powers of employment tribunals.

Croner works as an extension of your HR team. We have in-depth knowledge of current legislation, regulations, case law and HR best practice to help you avoid expensive tribunal proceedings.

In the event of a tribunal, we handle up to 1,000 claims every year. We have a resolution success rate of over 90%. We’ll support your case from beginning to end, so speak with one of our pay and benefits experts: 0808 145 3379.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in Employment law, HR and Commercial Legal advice for large organisations across the United Kingdom.


Andrew Willis

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