Answer ... Most legal disputes arising from employment are heard in employment tribunals. These include all claims arising from employment statutes, such as unfair dismissal, redundancy and discrimination. Breach of contract claim of up to £25,000 in value can also be brought in the employment tribunals. Breach of contract claims in excess of this amount must be brought in the civil courts.
Employment tribunals are less formal than civil courts. Parties can be represented by solicitors, barristers, trade union representatives or non-legally-qualified friends or family members, or can represent themselves. Tribunal panels are composed of three members: a legally qualified employment judge who runs the proceedings and two lay members – one who represents employer organisations and one who represents employee organisations. Some types of cases (eg, unfair dismissal) can be heard by an employment judge sitting alone, whereas discrimination claims will be heard by a panel.
At a full hearing, the party with the burden of proof will present its evidence first. This will usually be the claimant, unless it is an unfair dismissal claim. The panel will look at documentary evidence and hear witness evidence, including that of the claimant. At the end of the hearing, it will give its judgment orally or will reserve judgment and subsequently issue a written judgment. Any appeal from the employment tribunal will be to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and subsequently to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Answer ... Most employment-related claims need to be presented to the employment tribunal within three months of the relevant date (eg, the date of dismissal). There may be a number of different deadlines where there has been a series of discriminatory incidents. The employment tribunal will extend the deadline for claims presented late only in very limited circumstances.
Before making a claim to the employment tribunal, a claimant must notify the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) that he or she intends to bring a claim. He or she will then be offered the chance to try to settle the dispute using ACAS early conciliation. Parties are not obliged to engage with early conciliation, but if they do the time limit for bringing an employment tribunal claim is extended by the period of early conciliation. Once the early conciliation period ends, ACAS will issue an early conciliation certificate. The certificate will give the claimant a unique reference number which must be included on the ET1 form (see below) should he or she go on to present a claim.
There are specialised employment tribunal forms. To start a claim, the claimant must complete and submit an ET1 form; if the employer wishes to submit a response to defend the claim, it will use an ET3 form. No fee is charged for issuing an employment tribunal claim.