If you are going ahead with an employment tribunal case, understanding who may represent you is an important consideration prior to proceedings.
Can you represent yourself?
If you wish to represent yourself, you can. Before you decide to do that, it is important to understand exactly what’s involved and the chances of success by doing so.
What does it mean to represent myself?
When you represent yourself, it means you will be responsible for:
- preparing the case
- talking in the tribunal
- managing your part of the hearing.
First, you will need to prepare the case, work out which witnesses and documents are needed, and prepare statements and other materials that are important.
You will then need to present your case at the hearing. This may include presenting the evidence and dealing with any legal points or arguments. Presenting the evidence will mean giving your account of what happened and calling upon witnesses to give an account.
Presenting your case may also include cross examining the witness for the other side and dealing with any documents or exhibits they produce.
You also need a good, up-to-date understanding of the law and any relevant case law.
A representative or an advisor?
There is a difference between the two roles of representative and advisor.
A representative will attend the tribunal hearing with you, asking questions on your behalf and stating your case.
An advisor is more likely to work behind the scenes. They will not necessarily attend the tribunal with you.
Who else could represent me?
There are other people that don’t need to be legally qualified to represent you. These include:
- a trade union official
- a volunteer advisor
- a friend or family member.
Some caution is advised in these circumstances. Depending on whom you ask, they may or may not have the right level of experience and expertise to deal with your case.
It is worth remembering that employment law can be complex. It also changes and develops periodically.
Your representative will also need to prepare and handle your case. This means they need to think quickly and deal with legal arguments.
You should also bear in mind the length of the hearing. This can be from a few minutes to days or even weeks.
Can I get free legal representation or legal aid?
Legal aid is not available for employment tribunal representation. However, it is possible – in some cases – to obtain free representation.
Advocate is a charity which matches members of the public with barristers willing to donate their time and expertise to deserving cases and those who cannot afford to pay. It should be noted that strict eligibility criteria is in place. Their services are also in high demand.
The Free Representation Unit (FRU) is another charity that provides free legal advice, case preparation and advocacy in employment cases. They also have strict eligibility requirements. Usually, you must be referred via one of their agencies.
Finally, there is the Law Centre Network. They offer free legal advice and representation in respect of employment rights, but you need to contact your local centre to see if you are eligible.
Receiving help and representation at tribunal from a lawyer
You may also choose to be represented by a lawyer. With this approach, you will have someone representing you who understands the law and is experienced and skilled in handling hearings and advocacy.
A legal representative will also provide guidance on what evidence is needed, what your chances of success are and what, if any, compensation you may be entitled to.
Having this information will help you make informed decisions about how to proceed with your case, and whether to accept any offers of settlement.
You will normally have to pay for the services of a lawyer. However, there are a couple ways in which you may get help with the fees.
First: check the terms of your household insurance and credit card policies. Some insurance policies include legal cover.
If you are a member of a trade union or trade organisation, check the terms of your membership. Sometimes this includes free legal help.
Obtaining legal help and advice with an employment tribunal case
In addition to their experience of handling employment tribunal cases, our team of employment law solicitors can guide you through proceedings, and advise you with all aspects of your case – including whether to accept a settlement agreement.
For an initial consultation about your circumstances, get in touch today.