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Employment tribunals can be extremely complex. Our employment law and HR lawyers are specialist in representing employers and senior employees and providing practical advice to achieve the best outcome for you.

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What is an employment tribunal?

The Employment Tribunal is an independent tribunal which has statutory jurisdiction to hear various disputes between workers and employers. They have the responsibility for workplace justice.

What cases do tribunals deal with?

The most common cases which the Tribunal have jurisdiction to hear legal disputes concerning employment law and the workplace, this includes (for example) claims for unfair dismissal and redundancy claims, claims about unpaid wages or unpaid holiday pay, claims of unlawful discrimination, and claims of detrimental treatment following protected disclosures (often called “whistleblowing”).

The benefits of using a solicitor to represent you in a tribunal

Employment law is complex, challenging and ever changing.  There can be complexities in relation to how claims are pleaded and responses to claims and strict time limits in place.  How a claim is defended from the start when the ET3 is drafted can dramatically make a difference to the strength of the case and defence up to and including the tribunal hearing.

For example, if certain claims are not appropriately defended at the outset, it may be difficult for a respondent to change their position later on in proceedings without seeking leave of the tribunal to do so.  This can often be the difference of winning or losing at a hearing.  Tribunal proceedings can also be very time consuming and instructing solicitors can help to minimize the disruption to the business in responding to the claim.

How long does an employment tribunal take?

This is very dependent on the claim and which Tribunal the claim is assigned to. However currently it could take between 18 -24 months to reach final hearing.

What should employers consider when facing a tribunal claim?

If an employer is in receipt of an employment claim, the first step is to take note of the deadline to respond and if instructing solicitors, to do so without delay.  We will also discuss the merits of the case and costs associated with defending the claim with employers so that an informed decision can be taken with regards to defending the claim and/or fighting it to the final hearing.

Employers should also immediately consider any documents/emails or other evidence that they have in their possession that may be relevant to the claim and ensure that they are kept and not destroyed, as well as making a note of any individuals who may be relevant to the issues raised and may be required as witnesses.  It is essential that as the case progresses, employers keep a detailed note of all key dates and ensure witnesses are aware of the dates so they are available when preparing for key stages, such as exchange of documents, witness statements and witness evidence at the final hearing.

Is the decision of a tribunal final?

No, in individual can appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) if the individual believes a legal mistake was made in an employment tribunal case. E.g. if the individual thinks the judgement: got the law wrong or did not apply the correct law; did not follow the correct procedures and this affected the decision; had no evidence to support its decision; and/or was unfairly biased towards the other party.

An appeal must be made within 42 days of the date the written reasons for the judgment were sent out.

How long have I got to make an employment tribunal claim?

Most employment tribunal claims must be made within 3 months of your employment ending or the breach or discriminatory act happening.   For example, in a case of unfair dismissal it will be 3 months from the date of the dismissal.  In a discrimination case the time limit runs from the discriminatory act complained of – in many cases this is not the same as the termination date.  If it's a claim about redundancy pay or equal pay, the claim must be made within 6 months.

However, employees must contact ACAS as part of the Early ACAS Conciliation process in respect of any potential claim they wish to bring before they make a claim with the employment tribunal. ACAS must be contacted within the time frames above.  ACAS will aim to try and conciliate the claim but once an ACAS certificate is issued the individual will have a minimum of 28 days from the ACAS certificate to make a claim. The deadline for making the claim after receipt of the ACAS certificate differs from case to case and is entirely dependent on when ACAS was contacted. We strongly recommend seeking legal advice to check the deadline.

Who pays the costs of an employment tribunal?

The legal costs in an Employment Tribunal are paid for by each individual party. In some rare circumstances costs can be awarded if one of the parties has been vexatious or behaved, disruptively, abusively or otherwise unreasonably in bringing proceedings or in the way that they have conducted themselves during Tribunal proceedings.

Some employers and employees may have the benefit of legal expenses insurance to cover the costs of bringing and/or defending the claim. We regularly represent both claimants and respondents who are insured.

Key Contact

Helen Watson

Helen Watson

Partner | Head of Employment Law


Helen has been Head of the Employment Team at Aaron and Partners LLP for over 16 years and is an experienced Tribunal Advocate, Accredited Mediator and Workplace Investigator. Helen is also a Chartered Director and Executive Boardroom Coach.