Employment Tribunals: What You Should Know

When you start a new job, one of the last things on your mind will be the possibility of ending up at an employment tribunal.

It’s not a particularly common experience. But if you do find yourself at that point, there are some things you should know about what taking your employer to a tribunal involves.

Reasons to go to an employment tribunal

There are various reasons you could take your employer to a tribunal. If they have not acted appropriately and legally, you have the right to take action. This could involve addressing the problem internally, but it could also mean you need help from an employment tribunal.

Among the most common reasons for attending a tribunal are those involving finances and dismissals – unfair, constructive or redundancy.

According to government data, in April to June 2020 – during the first UK Covid-19 lockdown – unfair dismissal was the most common complaint brought by employees at tribunals. In the quarters both before and after that, unauthorised deductions were the most common complaints.

Other reasons you could take your employer to a tribunal include:

  • Discrimination
  • Facing problems after taking industrial action
  • Equal pay
  • Parental leave problems
  • Whistleblowing
  • Working time

The employment tribunal process

You need to think carefully about how strong your claim is before going ahead. Claims without strong evidence or a good chance of winning will usually never reach the stage of a hearing. For this reason, it might be better to try to come to an agreement directly with your employer.

If that can’t happen and you’re determined to make a tribunal claim, you’ll then have to tell Acas about your intention. They’ll then offer you early conciliation, which could help you come to a positive outcome quicker than a tribunal would. This is voluntary, though. You can refuse the offer.

You can then begin your employment tribunal claim online or through the post. Your employer will usually respond within 28 days of receiving your claim form. They’ll put forward their side of the story and the tribunal will then decide if there will be a hearing.

Due to the pandemic, hearings may be postponed or take place online or on the phone. At the hearing, you’ll present your case. Your lawyer could do this for you. You can call witnesses and you’ll face questions by the judge and your employer. The decision will then either be made in the hearing or sent to you a few days later.

What to think about

In most cases, you’ll have three months from the date of the breach of law to make an employment tribunal claim. It’s very rare for a tribunal to agree an extension if the deadline has been missed, so make sure you’re making your claim as soon as possible.

You should also carefully consider whether you have a realistic chance of getting any compensation you’re owed, even if you win your claim. Citizens Advice warns that just over half of the people who win a tribunal don’t receive their full payments.

Think about whether your employer is financially stable or if they’ll more likely have trouble paying any compensation. Smaller companies are less likely to have the funds available, meaning that you could be left without the compensation you’re owed.

Businesses that may not be able to pay include those that have closed down and restarted under a different name. When you worked for the previous company, your claim would be against that one instead of the new one.

This makes it impossible to get any money you’re owed as the first company has no assets. This is true even if the company is doing exactly the same work with exactly the same people, just under a new name.

You’ll probably also struggle to get compensation from companies that have stopped trading. This is because they might not have any money or assets left to pay you.

If you have a legal problem at work and a potential tribunal claim, your chances of success will usually be boosted by having professional representation. This is particularly true when your employer has legal support.

Talk to First4Lawyers to find out how our expert employment solicitors could help you get the best possible outcome at a tribunal. Enquire online to find out more.


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