Defending Tribunal Claims
What happens if a tribunal claim lands on your desk?
Consider the claim form. Claims in the employment tribunal must be made on form ET1 and there are very strict time limits by which the claim must be lodged. This is usually 3 months less one day form the dismissal, act of discrimination or non payment of wages. Once the claim has been accepted by the tribunal it will be sent to the employer. The tribunal also sends a copy of the claim form to Acas and an Acas officer is allocated to the claim to work between the parties to see if a settlement can be reached.
Submit your response
Once a claim is lodged the employee is called the claimant and the employer the respondent.
The employer’s response must be on form ET3, provide the information required and be sent to the tribunal within 28 days of receiving the ET1. In the alternative it is possible to ask for an extension to this deadline but you must do so well before the 28 day deadline expires.
If the response is not on the ET3 and does not provide all of the information requested it is possible that the response could be rejected and sent back to the employer. Also if the response is not received within the 28 day deadline it is likely that it will be rejected and the employer may not be permitted to take part in the proceedings. In this situation the tribunal are likely to give a default judgment meaning that the employer cannot take part in the proceedings and the case will move to a hearing to decide how much compensation the employee should be awarded.
It is possible for an employer to make a counterclaim against an employee in the employment tribunal if the employee has lodged a breach of contract claim.
The tribunal response form can be found here.
Adhere to tribunal directions
Once the response has been accepted it is likely that the matter will be listed for a final hearing and the tribunal will make direction setting out steps for preparation for the final hearing. You should comply with all directions in a timely manner.
The directions are likely to include exchanging all relevant documents in the case, the claimant preparing a schedule of the losses claimed and the exchange of witness statements. The parties are encouraged to agree a bundle of documents prior to the hearing. Exchange of witness statements will usually be simultaneous. You must make sure that you and all key witnesses are available for the tribunal hearing.
Attend the hearing
The tribunal will always consist of a legally qualified employment judge. In discrimination cases there will also be 2 lay members present. One is usually from an employer background and the other from employee background.
It is quite likely that the judgement may be reserved and sent to the parties in the post.
Generally, each party bears their own costs in employment tribunal litigations. This means that as a rule, the losing party does not pay the winning party’s costs. However, tribunals do have the power to award costs against either party, depending on the circumstances.