The employment tribunal process can be a stressful time for an employer as dealing with an employment dispute is difficult. Not only can the process be time consuming but also costly.  There are several stages which make up an employment tribunal process. In some cases both parties may not need to complete the full process as they may decide to settle the claim by mutual agreement. 

We have outlined the employment tribunal process below and how it works.

The process explained

1. Starting an employment tribunal claim

In most cases the claimant has around 3 months less 1 day to submit a claim. In some cases, depending on the type of claim, they may have longer to submit the claim. The claimant may apply for an extension in special circumstances.

2. Early conciliation

Before starting the employment tribunal process both parties must show the dispute has been attempted to be settled. This is evidenced by a certificate, issued by ACAS. The claim cannot proceed without this certificate.

ACAS provide an early conciliation service, which is free. The employment tribunal process is on hold whilst you are in the early conciliation period.

If the early conciliation works, an agreement can be reached between you and the claimant and you will no longer need to proceed to an employment tribunal.

3. ET Forms

If early conciliation is unsuccessful and a certificate is issued, the claimant can log a claim on an ET1 form which should set out the full facts of the claim. A copy of this form is sent to the responder (employer) with a blank ET3 form.

As the responder, you must complete and return the ET3 form and any additional grounds of resistance within 28 days of the claim being sent – the ET will confirm the date. The ET can reject a claim if it doesn’t include specific information which is required.

Failure to return the ET3 on time risks a default judgement being made in the claimant’s favour.



Employment Law Services

We understand that dealing with employment law can be difficult, so our experts can help you each step of the way. We can offer the following services to put your mind at ease:

  • Unlimited advice from our experienced employment advisors
  • Full access to our comprehensive HR & Legal document library
  • Settlement agreements to prevent any progress to tribunals
  • ACAS early conciliation service to help negotiate a solution
  • In-house legal support to prepare for an employment tribunal, including drafting responses
  • Legal expenses insurance to cover the cost of preparation, defence and awards





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4. Case Management Orders

A judge will carry out a preliminary assessment of the claim and responses and, unless the judge decides that either the claim or response seems to have no reasonable prospect of success, the judge will issue case management orders. The case management orders are issued straight away if it’s determined that no issues need to be addressed. The orders include direction for the claimant and respondent and deadlines about when the directions must be completed by.

5. Preliminary hearing

Not always, but there can sometimes be a preliminary hearing before the main hearing of the case; this can be weeks or months before. The preliminary hearing is attended by both parties and or their representatives and can decide a preliminary issue, such as whether the claimant was really an employee of the respondent.

6. Settlement

Even at this stage, with the case having not been settled at the early conciliation stage, ACAS are still able to speak to both parties before the final hearing in order to see if a settlement can be agreed. Most tribunal cases will settle rather than going the full way to a hearing as this will save the employer on further legal fees and avoid public disclosure of the claim.

A settlement may be reached at any point up to the date of the hearing.

7. Final Hearing

The date and time of the hearing will be set up by the tribunal in writing. The employment tribunal hearing is like a trial. Most times the parties attend in person and are often represented, usually by a trade union officer or a lawyer, however both parties can represent themselves.

Both parties and any witnesses must give oath or affirmation; any individuals who lie after this may be convicted of perjury.

The written statement is usually read by the Tribunal which is the parties’ main evidence. Witnesses will be questioned by the opposite side and then be asked to provide further evidence and clarification. The employment judge and wing members are also able to ask questions.

After all the evidence has been heard, both sides are able to give their final summary before the Tribunal takes a break to reflect on their final decision.

If the Tribunal doesn’t reserve its judgement, the judge will announce their decision and the reasons for this at the end. If the judgement is reserved the claimant and respondent will receive a letter in writing. However, if the claim succeeds the Tribunal will usually deal with the compensation issue at the hearing.

8. Costs

In addition to paying any award and/or compensation which is ordered by the Tribunal, the claimant and respondent are responsible for their own legal costs in pursuing or defending a claim.

However, the tribunal does have the power to make an order for costs; this is normally where one party wins against an unmeritorious claim (or defense) or where a party has acted particularly unreasonably during the claim.

If you would like more information on the employment tribunal process or if you are facing a tribunal contact our advice team on 0333 240 7208.

Employment Tribunal Process Guide


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