Understanding your Employment Tribunal and what to expect
For many of us throughout our working life, although we may face disputes between colleagues or employers, it may not reach the stage where internal processes and procedures cannot resolve them. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. When internal processes cannot resolve a dispute, it may be necessary to commence proceedings in an employment tribunal. In this month’s blog, we take a look at Employment Tribunals in more detail, what you can expect, and the support we at Herris-Smith can give you if you face proceedings.
Employment Tribunals – what are they and what can you expect?
There are many reasons an employment tribunal may go ahead. However, it is essential to note that all internal processes and procedures must have been exhausted before this can happen. Only when internal systems have failed to come to a suitable resolution may a tribunal commence.
Employment tribunals are held for a variety of reasons:
- Unfair dismissal
- Unlawful deduction of / failure to pay wages
- Discrimination of those protected under the Equality Act 2010
- Failure to comply with regulations under data protection / human rights acts
Depending on the complexity of your case, you may have between one to three people sitting in on the case to listen to the evidence being brought forward. For simple cases, your case may be heard by an employment judge alone. In contrast, a panel will listen to more complex cases of three people, including a judge legally qualified to hear employment cases.
The hearing room itself looks very similar to any other court in layout and decor – however, you may notice some differences! The main difference being that your case will not be heard by a judge but rather by three people: the claimant, the respondent and the chairperson. This means that whilst the proceedings themselves are relatively informal, the atmosphere within the tribunal is much more formal than what we would expect in our everyday lives. For this reason, dress appropriately when attending an Employment Tribunal.
Employment tribunal from an employer point of view
When you have been asked to present your case, you will be invited to call your witnesses. It is the employee or their representative who will be invited to ask you questions in cross-examination.
During this time, the employee will be seeking to find anything unclear or wrong within your witness statement. Often, an employee will have a representative to support them through the case, so there is a good chance a professional representative will question you.
Cross-examination is the chance for the opposing side to prove that they are correct, and therefore, questions asked may be leading or provoking. Whilst you cannot ask for any assistance in answering the questions put to you, your representative may object to any questions that could be deemed improper.
Employment tribunal from an employee point of view
Once the panel members have introduced themselves to the room, it is up to the chairperson to decide who can present the case first. In the instance of unfair dismissal, it is often the employer that offers their evidence first.
The tribunal panel will read the witness statement you asked to write before the tribunal beginnings. There will be other statements, along with your own, from the employer. You will be asked questions about your witness statement, including to be cross-examined. Answer your questions openly and honestly. Remember that each side will be trying to prove they are correct, so there will be questions that you may find challenging to answer or that may provoke a strong reaction from you – keep calm and take your time to respond professionally.
Once the questioning has been finished, you may be invited to ask any questions you may have – often called a re-examination.
You may also be interested in:
The decisions and what comes next
Once both sides have been heard, the parties will be invited to leave. The tribunal will decide and post this out to both parties within a few weeks of the tribunal being completed. In some complex cases, interim measures can be imposed to prevent further damage to relationships before giving a final verdict.
If a claimant wins:
The tribunal can make specific orders against the respondent, including paying damages, compensation, financial penalties, re-employment, and witness expenses.
If a respondent wins:
The respondent is not generally awarded compensation but can be rewarded costs where the claimant has seemingly acted unreasonable or brought a case forward that they could not have won.
If you are not happy with the final verdict of your case, you may be able to appeal the decision. Requests to reconsider must be sent in writing within 14 days of receipt of the decision. There should be a good reason for reconsideration to be asked for.
Appeals can also be made to the Employment Appeal Tribunal if either party feel the original tribunal panel made a mistake.
Herries-Smith can support you with your employment tribunal.
Herries-Smith is your local employment law solicitor and has supported both employers and employees with Employment Tribunal cases for over 20 years. With extensive experience and knowledge in employment law, you can be confident that when you choose to employ us as your solicitor, we will represent you most professionally throughout the process.
We can provide you with legal advice throughout your case. Our stress-free legal services will give you the support you need to understand your case, the procedure and what to expect before, during and after the tribunal has been completed.