Employment Law

Employment Tribunal – What You Need to Know

By Andrew Willis
26 Jan 2022
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Ending up in an employment tribunal feels like the worst nightmare for any employer. When workplace conflicts do escalate, understanding the basics will put you in a stronger position to deal with the situation.

Facing an employment tribunal claim in the UK doesn’t sound very pleasant. It costs money, time and, what’s worse, a negative impact on your workforce.

While you can resolve conflicts with employees internally, or through early conciliation, what will you do if the situation escalates?

Call one of our experienced legal advisors for free employment law tribunal advice, on 01455 858 132.

What is an employment tribunal?

It is an independent judicial body with the purpose of solving employment related disputes. It addresses workplace issues between employer and employees, such as:

The government advises workers can make a claim against their employer, potential employer, or trade union. For example, candidates can raise a discrimination claim over the recruitment process.

The purpose of employment tribunals is to decide if the respondent has done anything unlawful against the claimant.

While less formal than a court, the employment tribunal gives legally binding decisions that both employer and employee must follow. The claimant can also withdraw their claim either orally, at a hearing, or in writing beforehand. This will lead to dropping the claim.

What Is An Employment Tribunal

Our experienced employment law advisors have seen several questions asked about taking work disputes to court. We will look at the most common ones below.

Both employers and employees ask:

“Can you appeal an employment tribunal decision?”

Simply put, you can. Whether the claimant, or the respondent finds the decision unfair or, they can take it to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

How much is an employment tribunal going to cost?

Neither the claimant nor the respondent has to pay to go to an employment tribunal. However, if your employee has made a claim against you, you risk losing the case if you don’t show up. If you lose, you also risk paying a much heftier price than you would have incurred for representation.

When losing in court as an employee, you face:

  • Paying the claimant's tribunal fees
  • Paying the claimant for damages
  • Paying the expenses of witnesses involved
  • Giving a dismissed employee their job back

Since April 2021, the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal has grown to £89,493, from the £88,519 previous figure.

Besides these upfront costs, loss of reputation externally, and of trust internally with other employees will impact your business.

This answers the next question we often come across often:

“Can you represent yourself at an employment tribunal?”

Yes, you, can, but why would you take extensive risks? By asking us for free advice, you will start to better prepare, and your chances of the claim being dismissed will increase.

How to go to an employment tribunal in the UK?

Take the necessary steps and get all the paperwork ready, to make your life much easier through the process. The better you prepare ahead, the better your chances to win. It isn’t the role of the employment tribunal to start the investigation, but for both parts to support their side.  

Remember that hearings often take place a considerably long time after the event. You want to rely on clear, factual accounts of what happened, such as:

  • Records of what happened during the incident or related to the issue raised
  • Copies of the employment contract and employee handbook, as well as any relevant policies and procedures
  • Any relevant communication, such as emails, letters, minutes (for example, notes from a disciplinary meeting)
  • Any witness statements, together with their details, should the tribunal decide to send a Witness Order

Employers have also asked us – do I have to attend an employment tribunal?

If you don’t, you chance getting yourself into bigger trouble. With the respondent failing to attend, the judge will decide solely on the claimant’s account and the proof they bring. You benefit from a 28-day limit before the proceedings take place, and the judge might decide to issue a default judgement.

Employment Appeal Tribunal

Can an employer appeal a tribunal decision, even if they failed to attend? Failing to attend or respond to the claim will make it much more difficult to even appeal the decision.

What to avoid when going to an employer tribunal in the UK

The first and foremost thing you must remember is to not just dismiss the claim. If you do so, it will very likely just turn against you.

Before you go to the hearing, make sure you carefully review the claim against your organisation. Plan your response to address each of the allegations.

If an allegation is true, don’t deny it. If it isn’t, set out your version of events clearly and precisely. Under no circumstances should you simply deny all allegations. This will only serve to damage your credibility and irritate the judge.

Finally, ensure that all witnesses are happy with the witness statements. Make sure you involve them in the preparation of the statement and approve it before finalising. Then, you’ll be ready to go.

How long does a tribunal take?

If you are facing an employment tribunal, how long does it take to get a decision?

It might not be what you want to hear, but there is no time limit on the actual length of the tribunal case. It depends entirely on the complexity of the situation, the proof brought forward, the witness statements, and how long the judge decides the hearings should last.

However, the claimant cannot take forever to take their case in front of a judge. For any unfair dismissal claim, they must first contact ACAS within three months, less one day, from the date of termination of employment.

Get free, straightforward advice from Croner today

We hope we have given you more clarity in this article about how an employment tribunal works. And while you hope you will never have to deal with it, some workplace conflicts do end with a claim.

Our friendly, experienced legal advisors will walk with you every step of the way to prepare the best case you can, should you need to do so.

Call us today for free advice on 01455 858 132.

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 small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.

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