FAQ | Employment Tribunals – Everything an employer needs to know

Few things may faze employers.

After all, they have seen it all in their workplace.

They have heard every possible excuse for unauthorised absences, dealt with grievances, managed multiple annual leave requests and seen their fair share of poor performers.  

But the one thing that is sure to faze employers is the prospect of being put before an Employment Tribunal (ET).

And rightly so. Standing in a tribunal defending a claim is not a nice position to be in. 

Our Employment Law Advisers answer some of the most commonly asked questions about ETs to help employers understand what it all involves and what the possible outcomes could be.  

  1. Do have to pay fees to access Employment Tribunals?

No. Last year, the Supreme Court concluded that fees in respect of Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal proceedings were unlawful. In consequence, fees are no longer payable.

Its impact has already been felt. From January to March 2018, over 9,200 single claims were received. This is up by a staggering 118% during the same period in 2017.

  1. What do Employment Tribunals do?

Employment Tribunals make decisions to resolve legal disputes on employment law matters between employers and employees. This includes unfair dismissal, discrimination, redundancy, equal pay and unlawful deductions of wages.

  1. Are employees required to contact Acas before they lodge a claim?

In most cases, before an employee can make a claim to an Employment Tribunal, they must get in touch with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to begin ‘mandatory early conciliation’.

This term often causes confusion, but it means that the employee needs to contact Acas. This does not mean that they have to enter into conciliation talks with their employer.

If the parties refuse to enter into conciliation talks, the employee can bring about a claim to an Employment Tribunal. Acas will provide a certificate with an early conciliation number, which is required for them to make a claim.

  1. Are there time limits for submitting claim to an ET?

Yes. There are strict time limits employees need to adhere to. In the majority of cases, the employee will have to bring their claim within three months less one day from the date of termination or the complaint or dispute occurring, but there are cases where it is longer. For example, they have six month less one day for an equal pay claim.

If an employee does not bring a claim within the specified time period, this means the Tribunal cannot hear the claim unless an extension is granted.

  1. How long do employers have to respond to a claim?

If the claim is accepted, the Employment Tribunal will send each party a copy of the claim form and an ET3 form for the employer to respond to the claim. Employers are required to respond within 28 days of the date that the form was sent to them by the Tribunal.

  1. What can they decide?

Depending on the nature of the claim, possible outcomes mean you may be ordered to pay compensation, reinstate or re-engage the employee, make a declaration or repay what is owed.

For example, when dealing with claims of unfair dismissal, an order to reinstate the employee (give them their job back) or re-engage them (get a job with the same employer or associated employer) can be made, but this is rare. In most cases, an order to pay compensation will be made.

In cases of unlawful deduction of wages, they can make a declaration and order the employer to repay what was unlawfully deducted.

  1. How much compensation can they provide?

In cases of discrimination, there is no cap on the compensation that can be awarded for successful discrimination claims. The compensation that an Employment Tribunal may award may cover not only financial loss, but also personal injury and ‘injury to feelings’.

When dealing with unfair dismissal, it will consist of a basic award and a compensatory award. The total cap for compensatory awards is currently capped at £83,682.

If you would like to discuss this further, contact your Employment Law Adviser who can guide you and help minimise the risk of claims.