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Understanding Employment Tribunals

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 13 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Employment Workplace Citizens Advice

An Employment Tribunal is a court that only hears cases about employment and, although it is a lot less formal than a High Court or other legal court, the judgements made there are just as legally enforceable. A tribunal will not give out advice but sits in judgement in disputes between two sides usually an employee or groups of employees and an employer.

What Can the Tribunal Do?

The tribunal will have a panel of three people sitting as judge and jury – one, the chair, will be a legally qualified person, while the others are experienced business people. Employment Tribunals can hear cases about many different employment matters, such as accusations of Discrimination, unfair dismissal and various unlawful practices. There is a (long) list of areas where the service has jurisdiction on the Employment Tribunal's website

Going to an Employment Tribunal really is a last resort in a workplace dispute. Both sides bringing a dispute before a tribunal will be expected to have already gone through informal attempts to resolve the dispute and internal procedures, either grievance or disciplinary.

Applying for a Tribunal Hearing

To kick the process off a form ET1 is required, which can be obtained from a Jobcentre Plus, an Employment Tribunal office or their website, or ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliatory and Arbitration Service). Information about the employee and the employer as well as the nature of the dispute goes on the form, which is then sent to the central office for the Employment Tribunal service. A copy of the form is then sent to the other side of the dispute within 28 days.

Any documentation that is going to be presented at the hearing needs to be sent to the other side at least a week before the hearing. It's worth noting that there's usually a three month time limit, after the incident in question, to register an application, although this can be lengthened in exceptional circumstances.

Assuming the claim is a valid one, which is to say that it is something that the Employment Tribunal Service agrees that they should be looking at, they will set the date for the hearing. Both sides should take legal advice and consider bringing legal representation to the hearing. The hearing itself doesn't cost anything but having legal representation certainly will. Trade Union Members may well get legal representation provided by the union free of charge, as long as the union supports the member's claim. Either side can also produce witnesses, and if any do not want to attend they can be forced to by the tribunal.

If the employee wins the case, then the tribunal will usually order reinstatement (if the employee had been sacked) and award compensation designed to cover any lost earnings or potential earnings, for example if the dispute had been about being passed over for promotion. There is only further compensation for hurt feelings in discrimination cases. If the employee loses, they can appeal, but the appeal can only be about the process of the court or points of law that were incorrectly applied, technical faults in the running of the hearing, in other words. It is not possible to appeal against the verdict purely because it is not agreed with.

Where to Find Out More

ACAS have information on their website and telephone helplines, and the Citizens Advice Bureau can help, in particular with filling in the ET1 form. They can also help with Finding A Solicitor in the right area who specialises in employment law.

The Employment Tribunal service itself has an informative website and there is further information on the government's direct.gov.uk website. Employers can get advice from the Government's BERR (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) website, or their local Business Link organisation.

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[Add a Comment]
Nellie - Your Question:
My company are looking at relocating from 10 miles away to 20 miles away. I have a medical condition that means some days I am unable to drive, the new office is on a trading estate accessible by car and limited public transport. To get to the new office via public transport it would mean travelling 4 hours per day. They have also requested we move within the next 5 - 6 weeks. What rights do I have?

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here , which should help answer your question.
WorkingRights - 17-Oct-17 @ 2:02 PM
My company are looking at relocating from 10 miles away to 20 miles away. I have a medical condition that means some days I am unable to drive, the new office is on a trading estate accessible by car and limited public transport. To get to the new office via public transport it would mean travelling 4 hours per day. They have also requested we move within the next 5 - 6 weeks. What rights do i have?
Nellie - 13-Oct-17 @ 6:37 PM
I'm asking on behalf of my niece who has worked for the same company for 14 years since leaving school. She was recently sacked for gross misconduct for something that happened at Christmas(she was sacked in April) she had no warning. Can they do this to her without any discussion, meeting with her to discuss etc etc? She worked in a shop & served her shop discount partner which was a company policy not to do. She made a mistake & thought no more of it then 4 month later they dismiss her for it without any warning. Is this right?
Niecey - 8-Jun-17 @ 2:01 PM
birdie - Your Question:
I work full time my time is split 50% to two different jobs. One of the jobs is being outsourced I have not been officially told though I have attended a meeting with the company I have been verbally advised not to worry as there is other work. Recent conversations as led me to distrust this 'dont worry attitude what are my rights

Our Response:
Much depends upon what type of contract you are on and what the terms of the contract are. As the details of your question are a little vague, it is difficult to answer in any detail.
WorkingRights - 26-Apr-17 @ 1:33 PM
I work full time my time is split 50% to two different jobs.One of the jobs is being outsourced I have not been officially told though I have attended a meeting with the company I have been verbally advised not to worry as there is other work.Recent conversations as led me to distrust this 'dont worry attitude what are my rights
birdie - 25-Apr-17 @ 2:55 PM
My place of employment has moved from 15 miles (40 mins ) to 25miles(1 hr 10 mins) and because I have a severely handicapped and disabled husband at home I feel this is far to far to travel and will cost me approx £25.00 a week more in fuel. My employer states that my job is open for me,however if I choose not to take it,so be it. Am I entitled to redundancy due to the unreasonable travel distance and cost? I took the job originally because I was able to get back to my husband quickly should he have a major problem, but the additional time puts him at a much greater risk if I am unable to attend him promptly.What is my legal position regarding redundancy if it becomes impossible for me to be so far away from my severely disabled husband.
Lena - 16-Jan-17 @ 3:16 PM
my company is moving 12 miles away, and although they are paying mileage for 4 years the new office is not on a bus route, sometimes I don't have use ofa car, amI entitled to redunduncy
molly - 14-Aug-16 @ 6:29 PM
Hi. I got suspended from my workplace for going to the toilet. Once I came back from the toilet I received a whole load of verbal abuse from my supervisor which caused me to walk out. When I called my manager he suspended me and not my supervisor, baring in mind he took this action without consulting HR or even letting them know after he had suspended me which goes against company rules. Is there anything I can do?
Tinmin - 6-Oct-15 @ 4:03 PM
I have just been sacked . The day after I had a go at my boss for taking pictures off my facebook and putting them in his . Ones where you are in your bra. Not only of me but other girls . That work in the pub . I'm the only one that has been sacked . What can I do , I wasn't suppost to of been in I'm still on the sick . Which he is refusing to pay . And now refusing to pay moly holidays . Which were booked this week
Leanne - 20-Jul-15 @ 12:34 PM
The company I worked for was liquidated, I have been issued with a redundancy package that includes payment in lieu of notice. Can I work for the holding company as a freelancer without jeopardising my redundancy package?
The master - 1-Oct-14 @ 5:39 PM
I work for a company who is relocating to the next town 10 away. Would that be considered a reasonable. Distance and do I have any rights
Bikbo - 21-Sep-14 @ 4:21 PM
My place of employment has moved from 6 miles (10 mins ) to 40miles(1 hr 20 mins) . I feel this is far to far to travel and will cost me approx €100 a week more in fuel. My employer states that my job is open for me,however if I choose not to take it,so be it. Am I entitled to redundancy due to the unreasonable travel distance
Sam - 21-Feb-13 @ 11:08 AM
My office where I worked in Kent was closed and I was asked to relocate to the London office (an additional 35 miles distance from my home), or accept there redundancy option. After much thought I decided to travel the extra distance to work, as there was a 4 week redundancy trial period.However, 6 months down the line, my job role significantly changed for the worse, a role that my employer must have had in mind at the time of the relocation, but which was not discussed with me. Had I known about the new job role they had planned for me at the proper time, then I would have opted for the redundancy option. Can I legally claim a right to the the original redundancy terms they offerred?
Gazza - 13-Sep-12 @ 5:54 PM
hi my company(a bookmakers) are thinking of relocating the shop i work in to a new premises only a few hundred yards up the high street as we are well due a makeover and upgrade. as usual its all down to cost but my area manager informed me only yesterday that if we do relocate then i would have to apply for my own job (manager). is this right are my company allowed to do this? he also said that if i was unsuccessful then i would still have a managers position in another local shop. i have only been the manager for a year and yes turnover is down due to the death of many local customers therefore no revenue coming over counter and self excluded high staking customers but i have proved that i have one of the best sales drives in the area. what are my rights please
jeanie - 17-Aug-12 @ 7:50 PM
My place of employment has moved from 6 miles (10 mins ) to 40miles(1 hr 20 mins) . I feel this is far to far to travel and will cost me approx €100 a week more in fuel. My employer states that my job is open for me,however if I choose not to take it,so be it. Am I entitled to redundancy due to the unreasonable travel distance ?
speedy - 12-Aug-12 @ 1:38 PM
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