This factsheet was last updated in April 2016.
What is an employment tribunal?
UK employment tribunals deal with claims that may be brought against employers by employees relating to their employment or its termination. In Northern Ireland they are called industrial tribunals.
The employment relationship is governed both by the law of contract and by statute law. Some contractual disputes can be dealt with either by the tribunal or by ordinary civil courts (for example the High or County Court). The majority of the statutory rights can currently only be enforced by employment tribunals.
Examples of disputes heard by employment tribunals are:
- unfair dismissal claims
- wrongful dismissal claims
- discrimination claims (race, sex, disability, religion or belief; sexual orientation, age)
- equal pay claims
- claims relating to deductions from wages.
Examples of disputes heard by the 'ordinary' civil court system in the UK include:
- accidents at work
- restrictive covenants
- contractual breaches relating to non payment of wages and benefits owing or pay in lieu of notice
- wrongful dismissal claims and other contractual claims for damages arising out of termination of employment.
In Northern Ireland, there is also a separate tribunal, the 'Fair Employment Tribunal', specifically to deal with religious discrimination and political belief claims.
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