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What is an employment tribunal?

An employment tribunal (ET) is an independent judicial body who decides disputes between you (as an employee) and an employer or former employer.

The most common disputes are:




Employment Tribunals are designed to be less formal than a court. They are intended to make it easier for people to represent themselves, if necessary.

How long does an employment tribunal take?

Timetables for tribunals vary, especially if the claim itself is complex.   You submit a claim by completing an ET1 form.  Your employer/former employer has 28 days to submit a response to your claim using an ET3 form.

Due to an already overloaded system which has been exacerbated by Covid delays and strains, ET waiting lists are currently very lengthy.  It can sometimes take over 18 months between submitting a claim and getting to the ET hearing.

Employment tribunal time limits

There are time limits for issuing an employment tribunal claim.  These time limits can be short, so we do encourage seeking early advice or taking action at an early stage.

Employees wishing to make an unfair dismissal claim must first begin ACAS Early Conciliation within three months (less two days) from the day of their ‘effective date of termination’ of their employment.

There are also time limits for other sorts of tribunal claims.  Calculating these time limits is not always easy, particularly in discrimination claims.  It is worth seeking legal advice for the avoidance of doubt.

How to prepare for an employment tribunal

Whatever case you are facing, preparation and paperwork are key. The actual hearing often takes place long after the event(s) so having a written account of what happened is useful.  Try to collect the following:

  • Anything written down related to the incident or issue
  • Notes of key conversations, meetings or incidents
  • A copy of your employment contract and employee handbook/policies which may be relevant
  • Any other relevant communication – letters, emails, texts, etc.

The written evidence will be contained in what is called a ‘bundle’. Usually, you’ll agree with your employer/former employer what is to be included in the bundle.  The Employment Tribunal has some useful guidance here: presidential-guidance-general-case-management-20180122.pdf ([1]

You will also have to write down what happened to you.  This is called a “witness statement” and it helps the Tribunal understand your case.  If someone else is coming to give evidence for you, they will also need to write a statement.

Before you go to the hearing, make sure you carefully review your original ET1 claim form and the ET3 from your employer. Plan your response to address each of their denials/allegations.  If an allegation is true, don’t deny it. If it isn’t, set out your version of events clearly and precisely.

At the ET

You may be asked to attend a hearing on-line or in person at a Court.

Aim to arrive early.  If attending in person, Court security will check you and your bags before signing you in. Before the hearing officially starts, the clerk will call your name, ask for witness statements and case documents. Have plenty of copies ready.

You will be called into the hearing room where there will be two large tables, each with a sign. One is yours (the Claimant), the other is your employer’s (the Respondent).

After the judge’s introductions, it’s time for  witness evidence. Which side goes first depends on the nature of the claim.

Each party takes turns to call their witnesses who will all face “cross-examination”. Witnesses can’t confer with anyone in the hearing before answering questions, but they can refer to the document bundle provided.   You can expect questions from the employer’s representative and the Tribunal.

Finally, there’ll be closing submissions. This will allow each side to summarise the case as they see it. The tribunal may ask for submissions in writing.  The tribunal will then retire and deliberate. They may come to a decision that same day or you might have to return. The government will publish the final decision on its website.

What are the chances of success at an employment tribunal?

This will depend on the nature of your claim and what the evidence is.  Many cases ‘settle’ before getting to an ET.  The Employment Tribunal does issue quarterly statistics which can be a useful guide.





What happens if I win – or lose?

If you win and your employer loses a case, the tribunal can order them to do a number of things, depending on the case. For example, they might be asked to:

The level of any award can vary greatly.   We have significant experience in achieving awards and settlements in employment tribunals, so we can give you some guidance on what you can expect.

Another thing to keep in mind is the government will publish the final decision on its website.

Can you appeal an employment tribunal decision?

Yes, you can ask a tribunal to reconsider their decision. To appeal, you should write to the tribunal office explaining why you want the decision reconsidered within 14 days of the tribunal’s decision.

Remember, appealing does include a fee. Alternatively, you can appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal if you believe there’s a legal mistake.


What is an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)?

It’s an independent judicial body responsible for handling appeals against a decision made by the employment tribunal in the UK. You may appeal a decision if:

  • The ET got the law wrong
  • They didn’t apply the correct law
  • The ET didn’t follow the correct procedure
  • The ET has no evidence to support its decision
  • The ET was in some way biased


Do I have to pay for a tribunal?

There’s no fee payable for participating in a tribunal. However, you may benefit from paying for specialist legal advice or representation.  Legal costs can be high and subsequently are out of reach of many individuals.  See here for details of our costs [link to ET costs pages].


Where can I get employment tribunal legal advice?

Facing an ET alone can be both daunting and challenging, which is why we provide expert employment tribunal advice and support for employees or former employees facing an ET.

You should check your insurance policies as some do provide cover for legal expenses.

You might also be able to get some free advice from the following sources:


Contact Menzies Law

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