Employment Advice

Employment tribunal procedure rules and process

Learn about the Employment Tribunal procedure rules and the process for resolving employment disputes. Get expert insights and guidance on our blog.

24 Apr 2023

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Esther Marshall

Esther Marshall

Understanding Employment Tribunal Procedure Rules

The Employment Tribunal deals with many different types of claim. The most common will be a claim for Unfair Dismissal, but the Tribunal also deals with claims of workplace discrimination and victimisation, unpaid (or underpaid) salary, failure to allow time off from work, failure to pay redundancy payments, and many more.

There are various steps involved in bringing a Tribunal claim, and we will explore below what happens at each state.

Steps involved in an employment tribunal procedure

The first step in any claim must be the ACAS Early Conciliation process. You will need to prove that you have engaged in this process before you issue your claim. Once you have told ACAS why you wish to bring a claim, they will contact your employer to see if settlement can be reached. If not, you will be issued a certificate to show that you attempted conciliation.

The next step is filling out the claim form, which is available online. This is how you tell the Tribunal what you are claiming, and why. The Tribunal will issue your claim and send a copy to the employer, who will then have 28 days to respond.

At that point, the Tribunal will, in simpler cases, send out “directions” – these will tell the parties what they need to do to get the case ready for trial, and when. In more complex cases there will be a hearing to discuss what directions are needed.

The first direction usually relates to the exchange of evidence – the parties will be asked to make a list of all the documents they have relating to the claim, and provide copies to the other side. That evidence could include letters, emails, photos and even Whatsapp messages or social media posts.

The next stage will be the exchange of statements which contain the evidence that witnesses will give to the Tribunal. There may be a pre-hearing review, to make sure that the parties are ready for the final hearing.

The final hearing can last anything from one day (for a simple Unfair Dimissal claim) to weeks (for a complex discrimination claim). Once the Tribunal has made a decision, either party then has the right to appeal.

Taking a claim to a final hearing can be costly and very stressful. That is why the parties will always be encouraged to try and reach settlement at every stage.

Employment Tribunal Process

The majority of employment claims must be issued within 3 months (less one day) of the incident giving rise to the claim.  This means that unless you start the claims process within three months less one day of the date of the incident, you will not be able to bring a claim.

If you cannot bring a claim, then you cannot use that claim as a point in a negotiation with your employer. Using the ACAS Early Conciliation procedure does “stop the clock” but calculating the new deadline can be complicated. The safest option is to contact ACAS well within 3 months to ensure that the deadline isn’t missed.

Once your claim is issued, it could be up to 18 months before you reach a final hearing.

Depending upon the type of claim, the hearing will be before an Employment Judge sitting alone, or (for more complex cases) a panel made up of the Judge and 2 non-legal members.  Each of the panel members can ask questions, as well as the lawyers representing the parties.

If your claim is successful, then the Judge can (in simple cases) make a decision on the days as to the amount of compensation payable. It is more likely, though, that there will be a separate hearing at a later date to decide the level of compensation.

Frequently asked questions

What is the purpose of the Employment Tribunal procedure rules?

The Employment Tribunal Rules are there to make sure both parties have done everything to put their case forward so that the Tribunal can reach a decision based upon all relevant information.

What are the time limits for complying with the Employment Tribunal procedure rules?

The Tribunal will give Directions for each stage of the process, which will give a date by which each stage must be completed.

What are the consequences of not complying with the Employment Tribunal procedure rules?

If a party fails to comply with the Rules and / or Directions, their case may be struck out, which means it cannot continue.

Can I ask for an extension of time to comply with the Employment Tribunal procedure rules?

Yes, if you have a good reason for not being able to comply in time. However the Tribunal is strict and will only make allowances in exceptional circumstances.

Can I apply for a waiver of the Employment Tribunal procedure rules?

No – the rules will apply to everyone.

Can I challenge the Employment Tribunal’s decision on the basis of a procedural error?

Yes, if the Tribunal itself has made an error which meant that your case was not decided fairly.

M&P Commentary

Esther Marshall, Member and Solicitor in Dispute Resolution who deals with Employment issues, said:

“The Employment Tribunal procedure can, and often is, used by claimants without legal representation. However, it can be daunting, particularly if the employer has engaged a solicitor. Taking legal advice can give your claim its best chances of success. At Mullis & Peake LLP our Employment Law team has over 20 years of experience in Tribunal claims and is here to help you at every step of the way.”

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