Employment Tribunals hear cases involving employment disputes such as claims of unfair dismissal, discrimination etc. Employment Tribunal hearing are less formal than court hearings, however the decisions made by Employment Tribunals are legally binding.
Normally Employment Tribunal claims are brought against an employer. Some claims can also be brought against a trade union or a professional body that you belong to.
Evidence given in an Employment Tribunal is given under an oath or affirmation, false evidence can result in charges of perjury.
Cases are usually heard by either a panel of three people, called a ‘Tribunal’ – including a legally qualified Employment Judge, and two non-legal or ‘lay’ members who are people who have experience dealing with employment problems from the point of view of employers or employees or by an Employment Judge sitting alone.
As Tribunal Judges and non-legal members are completely independent and not part of the government, they make decisions impartially. Their judgements are based on the law, evidence and arguments put to them.
The non-legal members bring knowledge of workplace procedures to the proceedings. Sometimes the Employment Judge will hear the case alone – for example, to identify the issues in the case that will be dealt with at the full hearing or to deal with financial claims caused by the termination of your employment.
There is currently no charge for making a claim to an Employment Tribunal. So unless you are paying a representative (for example, a solicitor) there is normally no cost in making a claim.
However, the Employment Tribunal can order you to pay costs (known as expenses in Scotland) if it thinks you or your representative has behaved ‘unreasonably’ during the case.
Before making a claim
It’s often better to try to sort out problems with your employer formally before making an Employment Tribunal claim. Speak to your employer – you might have a misunderstanding or may be able to reach an agreement.
If this isn’t possible, try to resolve the problem through your employer’s grievance or disciplinary process – you could also try the help of a third party mediator or conciliator.
There is an Acas Code of Practice that describes a reasonable standard of behaviour for dealing with grievances and disciplinary issues at work. In most kinds of cases Employment Tribunals can decide to award you money if you win your case. The amount of money they award can be increased or decreased by up to 25 per cent if they decide either side has been unreasonable in not following the Code.
Claims that can be heard by an Employment Tribunal
An Employment Tribunal can only decide cases that relate to specific rights, so it is important that you know exactly what you are claiming. For example, if you are complaining about not being paid, it’s called ‘unlawful deductions from wages’. If you think your employer treats you less favourably because you are disabled, it’s ‘disability discrimination’. The range of complaints Employment Tribunals deal with includes:
- unfair dismissal (including ‘constructive dismissal’)
- discrimination on the grounds of disability, race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief
- not being allowed to have someone accompany you to a disciplinary or grievance hearing
- not being consulted in a redundancy situation
- breach of contract
- equal pay
There are many others (see Type of Claims).