This guidance is not a substitute for independent legal advice. It is for people thinking of bringing a claim against their employer or former employer in the Employment Tribunal. If you believe that you have a breach of contract claim, particularly one exceeding £25,000, you should consider bringing your claim in the county court instead.
You must keep an eye on the relevant time limit for bringing the claim. For most Employment Tribunal claims, it is a very strict deadline of 3 months, minus 1 day, from the act complained of. It does not matter whether your employer is still considering a grievance about your claim, you must not miss the deadline if you want to make the claim.
In certain very limited circumstances, the Tribunal may extend this deadline, but the Tribunals are very reluctant to do so. For example, there is case law to show that computer problems on the last day of the deadline will not normally be a good enough reason to allow an extension.
Before you issue a claim
- Find out whether you have legal expenses insurance (LEI). You may have LEI as part of your household insurance or any other insurance. If you do have LEI, contact your LEI provider as soon as possible to obtain assistance. LEI providers also sometimes have legal advice helplines that could help you.
- Gather relevant documents, while remembering to maintain confidentiality and compliance with any relevant policy of your employer, such as their IT and data protection policies.
- Write out what happened in the order it happened (a chronology). Try to recall important conversations relating to the potential claim and write those down; memories fade with time, and so getting things down on paper sooner rather than later will be helpful.
- Who is the claim against? Will you need to issue a claim against more than one Respondent? For example, if your claim is based on direct discrimination, you may need to ensure that your claim is brought against both the employer, and the individual who made discriminatory comments. If there is a TUPE situation (arising from the transfer of your job from one employer to another) then your claim may be against both employers.
- Consider what legal claims you might have. Is your claim for unfair dismissal? Discrimination? A protective award where there has been a lack of consultation about changes in the workforce? This is an area where instructing a solicitor can be particularly beneficial to you.
- Consider how much your claim is worth. Again this might be an area where it would be of great benefit for you to instruct a solicitor. You will need to tell the Tribunal how much you are claiming, either in the claim form, or during the course of your claim.
- Refer your potential claim to ACAS for Early Conciliation (EC). For most Employment Tribunal claims, you must submit brief details of the claim to ACAS so that EC can be carried out to try to resolve it before you have to issue the claim. Referring the dispute to ACAS also has the benefit of stopping the clock for a while on the deadline.
- Try to mitigate your loss. For example, if your claim is for unfair dismissal, you would normally mitigate your loss by you showing that you have been searching for and applying for suitable jobs. If the Tribunal does not believe that you have been looking for work to mitigate your loss, then any award that they might make in your favour could be reduced, even down to nothing.
Issuing your claim
- Complete your ET1 Form online. It is very important that you complete the ET1 Form carefully, ensuring that you have the correct names of the Respondents and the correct ACAS reference number or numbers. You do not necessarily have to put in full details of your losses at this stage, but you do have to explain why you are making your claim. Allow yourself plenty of time to do this, in case you experience technical problems submitting the claim.
- Monitor for a response from the employer. The employer will be allowed to respond to your claim and given a time frame for doing so. If they miss the deadline, then you may be able to obtain judgement in default against them.
Your claim in the Tribunal
The following steps do not necessarily all happen, or happen in this order in every claim; the Tribunal will tell you what it wants to happen.
- A preliminary hearing is likely to be held. This is usually where the Tribunal and both sides will discuss what should happen and when to get the claim to a final hearing. Or the Tribunal could decide that there does not need to be a hearing, and just email both sides to say what needs doing and when.
- The Tribunal will ask you to explain what remedy it is you are seeking. This could be reinstatement in your old job, it could be reengagement in a different job, but more commonly it is a claim for compensation. If it is compensation, you will need to set out calculations showing how much it is you are claiming and why.
- You will then need to prepare witness statements for yourself, and any other witnesses to relevant facts that have agreed to provide you with statements. These statements will need to be as detailed in what occurred as possible, and should set out what happened in chronological order, providing dates for each event where possible.
- Preparation for an attendance at the final hearing. You and your witnesses will need to attend the final hearing, and you are likely to be cross examined on your witness statement. The Tribunal may make a decision at the end of the hearing, or it may reserve judgement to be handed down at a later date.
- If there has been no time to deal with the compensation claimed, the Tribunal will arrange for another hearing to take place called a remedies hearing. The Tribunal will listen to evidence about what the appropriate remedy or compensation amount is at this hearing.
John Cameron at Rudlings Solicitors LLP can advise and represent you in relation to your potential claim.
This article is not intended to constitute legal advice. If you are unsure as to your legal position you should seek independent legal advice as soon as possible.