Employment Tribunals

What are Employment Tribunals?

Employment tribunals were set up to provide a quick, informal and inexpensive forum in order to resolve employment disputes.  They are less formal than other courts and parties can be represented by solicitors, barristers, trade union representatives or non-legally qualified consultants, or can represent themselves.  

Conciliation of tribunal claims

Prior to submitting a claim in an employment tribunal, a potential Claimant must submit a request to Acas for early conciliation of the dispute.  This will usually need to be done within 3 months less a day of the act complained of.  Acas will explore with the parties whether a settlement can be achieved without the need to commence formal tribunal proceedings.

If an employment tribunal claim is subsequently issued because a settlement could not be achieved, Acas will remain available for the duration of the litigation to assist with settlement discussions where the parties wish to do so.

Bringing and defending claims

In order to start a claim a claimant must present their claim form to the tribunal within the relevant time limit for the type of claim that they are bringing.  This time limit will be dependent on when the Acas early conciliation commenced, and how long it lasted.

No fee has to be paid in order to submit a claim.   An early conciliation number will have been issued by Acas and must be included on the claim form in the vast majority of cases.

The tribunal will confirm whether the claim is accepted and will send it to the respondent and require a response be submitted within 28 days.  

There are prescribed forms to be completed for the claimant and respondent, these being forms ET1 and ET3 respectively.  Each form can be completed and submitted online.

Case management

Once the claim and response have been accepted the tribunal has considerable power to determine how proceedings will reach full hearing through the use of orders and directions.  Sometime orders with a timetable of steps for the parties to take will be issued.  On other matters case management discussions will take place to determine how the claim will proceed.  


Usually written witness statements will be required by the tribunal, to be exchanged between parties simultaneously before the hearing.  Even where such a direction is not given, a written statement should be prepared.

Hearing bundles

A bundle of relevant documents which both parties intend to rely on at the hearing should be prepared, although in reality this will usually simply be a combination of all documents that both parties are in possession of.  It is beneficial to limit the documents in use, and usually the tribunal will only consider those documents referred to in witness statements.

Full hearings

The tribunal will usually consist of just an employment judge.  However in more complex cases, particularly where discrimination is alleged, two lay members will also sit with the judge.  

The parties’ witnesses statements will be read by the tribunal at the start of the hearing and the other side will then have the opportunity to cross examine each witness.  At the end of the evidence each party will have the opportunity to summarise their case.

At the end of the hearing the tribunal will make a decision on the issues before it.  It will provide a judgement which could be given verbally at the end of the hearing or it may be reserved and provided in writing at a later date.  It may deal with liability and remedy, or may just deal with liability, leaving remedy to be determined at a later hearing.  Reasons must be given for the judgement.

Judgments are posted online and are publicly available.

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