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Beginners Guide to Employment Tribunals

We've called this blog post "A Beginner's Guide to Employment Tribunals", so let's meet our brief and start at the beginning.

11 August 2017
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An employment tribunal hears claims, makes decisions and resolves disputes in points of employment law. You might, for example, wish to make a claim to an employment tribunal if you feel you have been treated unlawfully by your employer, a potential employer or a trade union. Typically, such claims might, therefore, concern unfair dismissal, discrimination, unfair deductions from pay or redundancy payments.

If, sadly, you feel you might need to make a claim to an employment tribunal, consider the following points:

  • You will normally need to make your claim within three months of your employment ending or the problem in question occurring.
  • Workplace harassment is unlawful in the UK under the Equality Act 2010 and can be a valid reason to make a claim to an employment tribunal. (The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.)
  • You should attempt to resolve your problem before you make a claim to a tribunal. For example, if you feel you are being harassed in the workplace, try to discuss the matter with the person or people in question. If, however, this direct approach does not work, you should talk to your manager, a member of your organisation’s human resources (HR) department or your trade union representative. If these efforts still leave you feeling unsatisfied, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. (Grievance procedures should be found in your company handbook, in your company’s HR or personnel manual, on your company’s HR intranet site or in your employment contract.) If the problem remains unsolved, consider making a claim to an employment tribunal.
  • As soon as you realise you might need to make a claim to an employment tribunal, make sure you keep relevant records, potentially including a diary of incidents recording times and dates.
  • You must tell Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) you plan to make a claim to an employment tribunal.
  • If you do not follow the ‘Acas Code of Practice On Disciplinary And Grievance Procedures’ (which is downloadable) and you go to an employment tribunal, the amount of compensation you receive might be negatively affected. The tribunal could adjust any awards made by up to 25% for unreasonable failure to comply with the code. The ‘Code of Practice’ offers guidance for handling issues in the workplace. Employment tribunals are legally required to take the code into account when considering relevant cases.
  • Acas will offer you the chance to settle the dispute, without going to an employment tribunal, through a conciliation service.
  • Employment tribunals are less formal than courtroom proceedings. Hearings are normally held at an employment tribunal office close to the relevant place of work. No one wears a wig or gown but, as is the case in a courtroom, tribunals cannot give out legal advice.
  • At the tribunal hearing, you will be known as the ‘claimant’. The person against whom you are making the claim will be known as the ‘respondent’.
  • As is the case in a courtroom, evidence will be given under oath or affirmation. (‘Taking the oath’ is the practice of swearing to tell the truth on the holy book of your religion. If you prefer, you can ‘affirm’, which means promising to tell the truth in a formal, non-religious declaration.)
  • The tribunal will be independent of the government.
  • Most employment tribunal hearings are open to the public. If you are preparing for a hearing, you might therefore want to attend a hearing to familiarise yourself with the procedures.