Employment tribunals


Anna Denton-Jones, Refreshing Law Last Modified  24 August 2015

Key points

  • Employment tribunals have jurisdiction to hear more than 80 types of statutory employment-related claims. Certain types of claims are specifically excluded from the tribunal's jurisdiction, such as those relating to restraint of trade, breach of confidentiality or personal injury.
  • In the majority of cases the time limit for starting proceedings in the employment tribunal (ET) is three months from the date of the act complained of, or where dismissal is involved, three months from the effective date of termination (EDT).
  • Since May 2014 anyone wanting to bring a claim has had to engage with Acas in the first instance through an early conciliation process.
  • The procedure for bringing a claim to tribunal requires the aggrieved person (the claimant) to lodge a complaint on the prescribed ET1 form, setting out particulars of the act(s) complained of. Fees to issue a tribunal claim were introduced on 29 July 2013.
  • At the tribunal, an employment judge reviews the initial paperwork. The judge can dismiss a claim or employer's response where it has no reasonable prospects of success. A claim or a defence can be struck out at any time if it is scandalous, misconceived or vexatious, or if the conduct of the case has been scandalous, unreasonable or vexatious.
  • An employment tribunal can require the attendance of any witness including a party to proceedings. Parties are encouraged to prepare and exchange witness statements in advance.
  • Claimants or respondents failing to appear at the tribunal hearing without giving any notice to the tribunal may result in the case being dismissed or a judgment being given in favour of the party in attendance.
  • There is a right of appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) from a decision of the employment tribunal on a point of law only. An appeal cannot be lodged just because one of the parties is not happy with the tribunal's decision. An EAT's decision can be the subject of a further appeal to the Court of Appeal (England) or the Court of Session (Scotland), and ultimately to the Supreme Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Future developments

Tribunal fees - two reviews
Just prior to his departure from the post of business secretary, Vince Cable requested a review by BIS officials into the effect of tribunal fees after figures showed a 90 per cent reduction in the number of sex discrimination claims following their introduction two years ago.

In June the Ministry of Justice announced the terms of a review into the impact of the fees, including whether the scheme was meeting the objectives of transferring “some of the cost from the taxpayer to those who use the service”, and encouraging the use of alternative dispute resolution, while maintaining access to justice. The government says the review “is expected to be completed later in the year” and that it “will consult on any proposals for reforms to the fees and remissions scheme”.

In July a House of Commons Select Committee announced its own enquiry in to the increase in fees across the courts and tribunal service, including whether the introduction of fees in the employment tribunals service had affected access to justice. The deadline for submissions to the enquiry is 30 September 2015.