Unfortunately, there are times when going to or facing an Employment Tribunal (previously called an Industrial Tribunal) as an employer, is unavoidable and often not within your control. If internal procedures, put in place by your grievance and disciplinary policies, have been exhausted and a dispute remains or if the matter complained of is unlawful, in other words discrimination, the employment dispute may proceed to the Employment Tribunal.
Employers only have 28 days in which to lodge a defence to any claim. Given the strict timescales involved, you should seek immediate legal advice on receiving an Employment Tribunal claim, and you need to be prepared for what can be a lengthy, costly and stressful experience.
Before a claim can be lodged at the Employment Tribunal, employees are required to notify the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and start mandatory pre-claim conciliation. Acas will then enrol you, as the employer, into early conciliation. During early conciliation, parties are invited to see if matters can be resolved with an impartial Acas conciliator, who will facilitate discussion to encourage resolution.
The conciliation period normally lasts for four weeks but can be extended for a further two if the parties are close to agreement. The time limits for bringing a claim may be extended depending on when the conciliation process was started. Employees can only progress to the tribunal process if they have received an early conciliation certificate, which evidences their participation in the conciliation process.
Following the submission of a claim, both parties are invited to present their case to the tribunal. Both parties will be given the opportunity to present their case to the judge; this involves providing evidence from written documents and questioning witnesses. Throughout proceedings you should expect to receive questions from the judge and from the other party to the dispute.
After all evidence has been presented and both parties have had the opportunity to put their case to the tribunal, the judge will retire to consider their decision. You will normally receive the decision by post following the hearing, but on some occasions a decision is reached at the hearing.
The Employment Tribunal can hear a wide range of employment-related claims, including: unfair dismissal, discrimination, national minimum wage, equal pay, whistleblowing, claims under the Working Time Regulations and unlawful deductions from wages to name a few.
The Employment Tribunal also has limited authority to hear claims for breach of contract if the employee’s employment has terminated. Some claims can be brought not just by employees but by a wider category of people called workers.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal is an independent tribunal, adjudicating on appeals from the Employment Tribunal. There are limited circumstances where employers can lodge an appeal and you cannot lodge an appeal simply because you are not happy with the initial decision of the Employment Tribunal. An appeal may be made if the Employment Tribunal made an error in law or if their decision, based on the facts of the case, would not have been reached by any other Employment Tribunal.
Our experienced Employment Law team can lead you through the tribunal process from start to finish, preparing you for what will take place and robustly representing your interests throughout.
From their years of reviewing, drafting and implementing suitable employment policies in a variety of workplaces, our Employment Law Solicitors have the necessary skills to minimise the risks for the employer resulting from a claim and will deliver advice appropriate to your needs.
We have extensive experience in representing employers in tribunal and can guide you smoothly through the process. We can also provide witness familiarisation training in advance to help employees feel more comfortable when attending a tribunal and help them understand what to expect.
In most employment situations taking legal advice early on can often stop the situation from escalating and will save you time and money later. With our proactive and commercial advice, Thorntons Employment Law team can help find the right solution for you over Employment Tribunal issues and help with any employment legislation issues. Give one of our Employment Law Solicitors a call on 03330 430 350, or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you.