Employment law

Employment Tribunals

The Employment Tribunal process was revamped in 2009 on the back of the Employment Act 2008. The act came into force on 6 April 2009 following a government commissioned report called the Gibbons Review. The Gibbons Review found that previously too many disputes ended up at the Tribunal, it was a time in-efficient process and that the process ended up being very costly for the employer.

The new act brought in provisions to:

  • Give new powers to Tribunals if there was an unreasonable failure to comply with the ACAS code of conduct.
  • Extend the powers of ACAS to conciliate disputes.
  • Gave extended powers to Tribunals to deal with weak or vexatious claims.
  • Allowed a legally qualified chair to sit instead of always having a panel present.
  • Promoted early and active case management.
  • Removed time restrictions on ACAS’ duty to offer conciliation.
  • Simplified the Tribunal forms, and
  • Repealed the statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures.

If an employee or former employee has an employment law issue and wishes to lodge a claim at the Employment Tribunal they first need to fill out and submit to the Tribunal an ET1 form. Previously former employees would have to go through the company’s internal grievance procedure; however, parties are now able to go straight to the Tribunal. If a former employee doesn’t go through the grievance procedure and their failure to do so is ruled unreasonable, they risk a reduction of 25% on any award to them.

Once a company has received an ET1 form, they have 28 days to respond using form ET3. An ET3 case will set out the case to which the company will be putting to the Tribunal. If there is no response forthcoming from the company, the Tribunal may award a default judgement in favour of the former employee.

After a company receives a copy of the former employee’s complaint, ACAS will be in contact inviting the parties to take part in a conciliation process. If this is not successful, a hearing date will be set.

Generally, Tribunals are less formal than Court proceedings, however, witnesses may be called by either party to back up any claims. Either party may have a lawyer representing them although each party will normally be liable for their own legal costs.

Any claims for unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal have to be brought to the Employment Tribunal within 3 months of the effective date of termination. The Tribunals are becoming very strict in relation to time deadlines and it is highly likely a claim will be struck out if it is not filed in time. If an employer receives an ET1 after this time, he should complete and return an ET3 but state clearly in their defence that the claim is out of time.

If a company feel that a former employee is bringing a vexatious claim in order to costs the firm money they could ask for a pre-trial hearing. This may enable the Tribunal to agree with your point of view in the matter and throw the out. If the former employee has no or low chance of missing, the Tribunal may make a costs order against them up to the value of £10,000.

Cases at the Employment Tribunal are all in open court and may be reported on. Parties may be able to postpone the hearing by asking the Tribunal for an extension, however, the party will need to have a valid reason for this.

Witnesses are able to provide evidence anonymously, which increases the chances of a co-worker who is still employed for the company to give evidence without any fear for their position within the company.

Although it is not nearly as beneficial then calling them in person, witnesses can give their evidence through witness statements which will be prepared prior to the hearing.

If a former employee is successful at the Employment Tribunal, there are several awards which they may receive from the Employment Tribunal. One such remedy may be that the Tribunal award the former employee her job back however this is not obviously an award which is available depending on the circumstances of the case. Financial awards at the Employment Tribunal are two-pronged, these consist of a basic award, which is calculated using a formula of age and length of service and a compensatory award.

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