What is an Employment Tribunal
Employment Tribunal’s are independent judicial bodies who adjudicate disputes between employers and employees. They are similar to the County Court, however, less formal.
Cases are judged by three people, who are known as the Tribunal. A Tribunal is made up of an Employment Judge and two lay people. The lay people each represent either employees or employers. This is to ensure a fair balance, so that neither party is prejudiced. An Employment Judge may sit alone to hear legal/financial arguments prior to a final hearing.
Unlike the County Court, there is no fee to issue a claim and the process is much speedier.
What is the structure of an Employment Tribunal?
Tribunals are made up of Chambers and each Chamber is made up of jurisdictions’. The First Tier Tribunal Chambers are: Social Entitlement Chamber, War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber, and the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber. The Upper Tribunal Chambers are: Administrative Appeals; Finance and Tax, and Lands.
The Employment Tribunal’s Service (ETS)
The ETS is a non-departmental public body which has statutory jurisdiction. The ETS provides administrative support to the Tribunal and is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
Reform and further Developments
The need to reform the Tribunals system was initially set out in a review conducted by Sir Andrew Leggett “Tribunals for Users – One system One Service”.
The Government introduced The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement (TCE) Act 2007 which gives a flexible tribunals´ structure. The act allows tribunals currently outside the MOJ to transfer into the new system and allow new jurisdictions to be added. The primary objective in implementing these changes was to improve the services provided by: Establishing the independence of the judiciary from the Government, Speeding up the legal process and conclude cases sooner, Simplifying the process to make it easier to understand, and bringing together the expertise and providing balance to the Tribunal.
The steps required before commencing a claim in the Employment Tribunal
The informal and formal procedures for resolving the dispute has been exhausted, such as following the Employers grievance procedure. The procedure should be found in the Employers manual. Failing that, advice should be sought from ACAS.
If the complaint has not been addressed by following the above procedures, then making a claim in the Employment Tribunal should be considered and advice should be sought.
Making a claim
In most cases, an Employment Tribunal application should be made within three months of the date of the wrongful act/act complained of. Employment Tribunals will not usually accept claims received after the three month time limit. However, in exceptional circumstances they may agree to an extension.
Claims will take a maximum of 30 weeks from issuing the claim to entering judgment.
Factors considered by the Tribunal
An Employment Tribunal will look at whether the parties have followed ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (the Code) The Code sets out the principles which should be followed when handling grievance and disciplinary matters.
An Employment Tribunal will consider whether any failure to follow the Code was unreasonable. It can decide to vary awards by up to 25% if it considers that either party has acted unreasonably.
How to issue a claim and what is the process
- When issuing a claim, the following procedure should be followed: The complaining party will fill out the claim form and send it to the Tribunals Office. The Tribunals Office will notify the complaining party within 3 days if the claim is accepted. In order for the claim to be accepted it must be on an approved form provided by Employment Tribunals and contain the name and address of the complaining party, the name and address of the respondent(s), and the details of the complaint.
- If the claim is accepted, a copy of the claim form will be sent to the Respondent and they will be granted 28 days to respond. Should no response be received after the 28 days, Judgment in Default will be entered. Should a response be received, there will be a Case Management Hearing, a Pre-Trial Review and a Final Hearing. This will need to be within a 21 week window.
- Case Management Hearings are to clarify the issues, decide which order should be made with regard to documents and witnesses, and the time and length of the final hearing. These types of hearings will usually held in private before an Employment Judge, or over the phone.
- Pre-Hearing Review Hearings are to decide: whether the claim or response should be struck out, questions of entitlement to bring or defend a claim, and whether an interim payment is required before the claim can proceed. These will usually be before an Employment Judge or over the phone.
- At the Final Hearing, the Tribunal will hear the evidence from each of the parties. The Claimant will give their evidence first and the witnesses will be questioned (cross-examined) by the Respondent. The Respondent will then give their evidence and their witnesses will be cross-examined by the Claimant. The tribunal will then consider the evidence and decide which remedy and what level of award is appropriate. If judgment is granted, the judgment order will be issued within 4 weeks of the hearing date.