Industrial Tribunals were created by the Industrial Training Act 1964 as independent judicial bodies to hear employment claims. They were subsequently renamed following the Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998 and are now known as Employment Tribunals.
Industrial Tribunals, or Employment Tribunals as they are now known, deal with all manner of employment related issues. An employee who is unable to resolve matters with their employer may present a claim for decision.
Deadline for Presenting a Claim to an Industrial Tribunal/Employment Tribunal
In most cases a claimant must issue a claim within three months of the matter complained about. In a straightforward case of unfair dismissal then the deadline would run from the date of dismissal.
A claimant who was dismissed on 3rd January would have to bring a claim by the 2nd April (a day less than three months) to be sure that the claim is issued within the three month deadline.
In cases in which the treatment complained of runs over a period of time, such as unlawful deductions from wages or discrimination, then the deadline will run from the last act complained of. That means that a claimant will have one day less than three months from the last time they were docked pay or subjected to harassment respectively. An easier way to understand this is to follow the worked example below.
Mr Smith claims that he has suffered harassment from colleagues on account of his sexual orientation. The treatment, mainly nasty comments and emails, has been going on for several years but has got worse in the last year. If Mr Smith decides to issue a case against his employer for failing to protect him from harassment then he must do so within three months of the last incident of harassment, in this case the last email. He may also include other incidents from longer ago within his complaint.
There is very little flexibility as far as deadlines are concerned and it is highly unlikely that a tribunal would accept a case which is passed its deadline. There are however four notable exceptions: claims for redundancy pay and equal pay; unfair dismissal for taking part in industrial action and unlawful exclusion from a trade union. These four exceptions each have a six month deadline as opposed to the usual three months.
Presenting a Claim
Presenting a claim to an employment tribunal (formerly industrial tribunal) must be done in the prescribed form. The correct employment claim form, Form ET1 must be downloaded and submitted to the tribunal within the deadline. It is a good idea to follow a guide to completing form ET1 if you intend to do this yourself. the form can be downloaded from the Ministry of Justice Website.
Costs Involved in Presenting a Case to an Employment Tribunal (Formerly Industrial Tribunal)
Each party at a tribunal will pay its own costs, except in very exceptional circumstances. You should consider the costs in issuing the claim; any legal advice that you need or representation from a solicitor or a barrister and the court fees. Recent changes to the fees that tribunals charge will add to the expense of bringing the claim.
What to Expect at an Industrial Tribunal (now Employment Tribunal)
Dress Code, arriving at the tribunal and other formalities
There is no specific dress code required at the tribunal (although smart appearance is strongly advised) and you will find the atmosphere somewhat less formal than you may imagine. Certainly none of the panel of judges or representatives will be wearing wigs and gowns and you will not be required to stand in a witness box to give evidence.
On arrival at a tribunal you will be expected to sign in and then proceed to a waiting room to wait for the hearing to commence. There are separate waiting rooms for claimants and respondents so you will not have to sit next to your employer whilst you wait for your hearing. If you are represented you can expect to meet your advocate in the meeting room and discuss any last minute issues.
Once you get into the tribunal you will sit facing a panel of three if your claim is for discrimination for more simple claims, such as unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal, a single judge will sit alone. In the case of a panel, one member will be a legally qualified judge and they will act as chair. The other two members are not legally qualified. It is intended that one of the lay members of the panel will have an industry focus and the other will have a more employee related focus.
You will be sworn in before you give evidence, placing your hand on the bible or other religious text and reading from a card. You may choose to affirm if you are not religious. When you address the panel you should use ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ as appropriate. You will not be asked to stand if you are required to give evidence but you will be asked to sit at the witness table. The panel or judge may already have read the witness statement that you prepared prior to the hearing or you may be required to read it out. Once you have given your evidence you will be cross-examined by the respondent (your employer or more usually their representative) and the panel if they have further questions.
Cross-examination sounds like a frightening prospect but merely means that you will be asked questions about your claim; you should attempt to answer these questions as clearly as you can and, of course, truthfully. The members of the panel will realise that this may not be something you are used to doing and will make allowances for any nerves that you may be feeling. Once you have been cross-examined your own representative (solicitor or barrister) may wish to ask you further questions to help you highlight any evidence that helps your case and perhaps to put a more positive spin on anything that you have said under cross-examination.
It will then be the turn of the Respondent’s witnesses to give their evidence and be cross-examined by your representative and the panel.
Once all the evidence has been heard from all the witnesses there will then be an opportunity to make closing submissions. If you are unrepresented you will do this yourself by making a summary of the arguments that you have put forward. If you are represented by a solicitor or barrister then they will do this for you.
The panel will then adjourn to consider its verdict, usually this will be given orally on the day but in more complex cases the verdict may be reserved and given in writing after the event.
Where you are successful in your case you will attend a ‘remedy hearing’ which focuses on how much compensation you should receive. This can be at the end of the main hearing, however, if there is not enough time a new date may need to be set.