What is an employment tribunal?
An employment tribunal is a type of informal court which hears cases about workplace disputes. Nearly all legal claims to do with employment are initially decided in employment tribunals. This includes claims of unfair dismissal, discrimination, redundancy, unlawful deduction from wages and equal pay.
Employment tribunals were established to provide quick, cheap and informal access to justice for individuals regarding employment matters. They were originally called “industrial tribunals”.
Lawyers do not wear wigs and gowns in employment tribunals and hearings are held in buildings which are much less grand than the civil or criminal courts.
An employment tribunal hearing will be run by a legally trained judge who is a specialist in employment law. Often (but not always) an employment judge will be assisted by two non-legally trained (lay) people, one of whom will be experienced as an employee representative and one of whom will have experience as an employer representative.
What happens at an employment tribunal?
Many different types of hearing are conducted by employment tribunals. There are usually several shorter preliminary hearings where practical matters for the main hearing are agreed with the parties to the claim.
At the main hearing of a case the parties may or may not be legally represented. If a party has instructed a lawyer, they will conduct the proceedings on their client’s behalf.
Each party will sit on a different side of the room at tables, facing the employment judge and any lay members (collectively called, the panel).
Each party will be able to present their argument to the panel and call witness and produce any documents in support of their case. The other side will then have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. Members of the panel may also interject and ask questions.
Once all the evidence has been heard the employment tribunal will usually retire to consider its decision. This is usually communicated in writing to the parties some time afterwards.
How much does an employment tribunal cost?
The costs of an employment tribunal vary widely depending on the type of claim, the complexity of the facts, how long the hearing is set for, how the other side behave and which legal professionals you appoint.
There is no longer any fee for making an application to an employment tribunal and if you do not engage a solicitor or barrister to help you then, in theory, it might not cost you anything.
But while going it alone as an “applicant in person” may look attractive, it is unlikely to be the best way for you to navigate the tribunal system if you are unfamiliar with it.
Not taking professional legal advice about the best way to run and present your case may ultimately result in you failing to win at tribunal as solicitors have extensive experience of bringing claims.
For a more detailed breakdown of costs for different types of claims, see our article: how much will an employment tribunal costs me?
Can an employment tribunal decision be appealed?
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) is the body which can hear appeals about decisions made by an employment tribunal. It can overturn a decision or send a case back to the employment tribunal to be heard again.
However, you cannot appeal an employment tribunal decision just because you lost or didn’t like the result – you have to show that the employment tribunal made some sort of legal mistake in the case. There are only very limited reasons why the EAT will consider an appeal.
These appeal reasons are: an error of law by the tribunal – such as getting the law wrong or applying the wrong law and, where a decision is perverse i.e., so bizarre that no reasonable tribunal could have come to the same conclusion on the evidence presented to it.
The EAT will carefully review an appeal application before accepting it to make sure that one of these grounds exists – this is called “the sift”.
How our employment tribunal lawyers can help you
Find out whether you have a good claim
If you feel you have been unfairly treated at work, we will assess your claim and provide guidance on the best way to pursue it, ensuring you follow the process correctly.
We will help you establish a good case and fight your corner every step of the way. Our specialist employment law solicitors have an excellent record of achieving favourable conclusions.
Starting a tribunal claim
Should you wish to bring an employment tribunal claim, we will ensure that you are fully aware of everything such a move entails and that you are in the best possible position to secure a favourable outcome.
We will make sure that you follow the correct procedures, submit the relevant documentation at the appropriate times and are represented expertly. From beginning to end, we will pursue the best possible result for you.
Finding out how much compensation you can get
Our specialist employment law solicitors can give you expert guidance on how much compensation you may receive from your employment tribunal claim.
We will assess your case, examining the details that surround it, and advise you on what you may receive and how best to proceed.
Getting the best representation
We will make sure you receive the best representation throughout your claim. We will ensure that you follow procedures correctly, meet any stipulated deadlines and are in the strongest possible position to achieve a successful outcome.
We will put forward and maintain a strong case at every point in the process and if your claim does go to a tribunal, you can rely on us to expertly prepare your case and to provide the highest level of representation.
Expertise for employees
Your rights during employment
- Bullying and harassment
- Disciplinary issues
- Family rights and flexible working
- Working time and holidays