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The employment tribunal process - making a claim against your employer

View profile for Stephen Woodhouse
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When you wish to make a claim for compensation against your employer there are various stages of an employment tribunal process that you will have to go through. Here we will outline what you should expect during each of these stages.

ACAS conciliation

The first step that you will need to take is to notify ACAS of your intention to bring a claim through a process called ACAS conciliation. This is your opportunity to resolve the matter in an informal and inexpensive way before it gets to a court or tribunal. You need to be aware of the short time scales involved in being able to bring a valid employment claim. You must lodge your claim with ACAS within three months of the date of your dismissal or from the date of the last act of discrimination you suffered. If you are lodging your claim outside of the time constraints, you may be unable to enter into settlement negotiations at all.

If your claim is accepted by ACAS you will receive a call from your designated ACAS conciliator. This is your chance to tell them your version of events and what it is that you are looking for as a resolution to the dispute. Be aware that if you make an offer that is too low, you could risk greatly underestimating the value of your claim, but if you make an offer too high this could scare the employer from making a counter offer and lessen the chances of getting an early resolution for yourself.

Lodging your claim at a tribunal

If conciliation is unsuccessful and a settlement cannot be agreed upon at this stage, you will then need to lodge your case at a tribunal. When lodging the claim there are various pieces of information that you must include on the form. The most important parts are – what are you claiming? What are the details of the claim, and what is the legal basis for your claim? If you are claiming for unfair dismissal, are you alleging that your employer failed to follow the right procedure? Did they fail to interview a key witness, or was their decision unreasonable given the evidence available? This is your one opportunity to lodge your claim at tribunal and get it right, and it is important that you take specialist advice at this stage.

Again, you need to be mindful of the time constraints, as these still apply. In some cases it is possible to get an extension of time through the ACAS conciliation process, however this is complex and something that you should seek specialist advice to do.

The employer will have 28 days to provide a response to your claims and ask for clarity on any points they do not understand.

Once your claim has been lodged and the response has been accepted, the tribunal will set down a list of directions. This is a list of tasks that each party needs to comply with and to produce to the court or to the other party. The first step is to produce a schedule of loss to the court, which is a breakdown of what compensation you are seeking if you win the case.

For unfair dismissal claims, the compensation is usually capped at a year’s salary but in discrimination claims there is no cap on the amount of compensation the tribunal can award. If you are lodging a claim for unfair dismissal you have a duty to mitigate your loss, meaning that you must take steps to find new work and reduce the level of loss that you have suffered. If you fail to do this the court can reduce the level of compensation awarded.

Following this step there is usually a requirement of both parties to submit a list of documents that will be relied upon at the final hearing. It is usually the respondent’s responsibility to prepare the bundle of documents, but the contents will be agreed upon by both parties.

Once the bundle is agreed upon you will then have the opportunity to submit a witness statement which needs to be in your own words and tell your version of events leading up to the claim you are making. You will also have the opportunity to rely on other witnesses who may have been present when the incident or incidents occurred which may help your case. Though be aware that colleagues are often reluctant to come forward if they still work for the employer because they often fear they may lose their job by supporting a claimant this way.

To maximise the chances of your claim being successful it is always best to seek legal advice and representation, particularly at this late stage. Although tribunals are not as formal as criminal courts there will be a judge or a panel who you will have to put your case before. Depending on the nature of the case the judge will decide who goes first. If you are the first person on the witness stand, you will be asked to read your witness statement, and then will be asked questions about the content of the statement by the other party.

Once the tribunal has considered all the evidence presented to them it will make a decision. The decision may be on the day of the hearing, or they may take their time and you may only hear the outcome at a subsequent date.

Funding options

For employees making claims against their employer at a tribunal there are a number of different funding options available. The first option is to pay on a privately paid basis but we appreciate that you may not have the funds to do this if you have recently become unemployed. Another option that may be available to you is through legal expenses insurance, which is often included on home insurance policies. If you have this, the insurance company will pay your solicitor directly at the conclusion of your claim at no cost to yourself.

A more commonly used method of funding is through a no win no fee agreement where in the event that your claim is not successful there is no cost to you. However, if your case is successful an agreed percentage of the compensation will be used to pay the solicitor for the work they have undertaken on your behalf to reach a successful conclusion. This is usually 35%.

If you are a considering, or are in the process of, lodging a claim against your employer or former employer our specialist team of employment law solicitors can help advise you and represent you before an employment tribunal. Call us on 0161 696 6170.

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