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An employment tribunal can be a nerve racking procedure for any business to go through.
Preparation is key but can also be a time-consuming process. Here we explain the key areas to keep in mind when preparing for your tribunal.
The first thing to do is make sure you respond – on the relevant form and with the required information – on time. You’ll have 28 days from when the employment tribunal sends the form to you to respond. The tribunal will calculate the date and inform you with its letter enclosing the claim form. If FSB Legal is assisting, our lawyers will do their best to submit the response on time, but they can only do that if told of the claim in good time.
An employment tribunal isn’t something to take lightly. Failure to prepare properly could prove incredibly costly to a business, especially if you lose and are required to pay the other party’s expenses or provide compensation.
Planning ahead is crucial. Prior to the date of the tribunal, you should have brought together all the elements needed to present your case effectively.
The employment tribunal’s letter may include the date of the final hearing – if so, put that in your diary and ensure all relevant witnesses do too. Alternatively, the tribunal may have listed a preliminary hearing to address directions, issues and some other matters – diarise that, and go equipped with dates to avoid for your witnesses, as the final hearing will probably be listed at that hearing.
Your tribunal case is often a result of escalating disciplinary procedures leading to a dispute between a business and a staff member. These procedures should have all involved detailed notes and paperwork, created at each stage and during each meeting by a neutral party.
This provides a record of the communication between you as a business and your staff, proving that the appropriate disciplinary actions have been taken. Records and copies of all letters sent about disciplinary procedures and outcomes should also be kept. This all highlights that everything from an HR and disciplinary perspective was done properly. Failure to do this can cause the legitimacy of a dismissal to be called into question and lead to larger problems for your case.
Any other evidence that reinforces your argument needs to be provided. This could include CCTV footage, transaction information from tills, stock records or witness testimony. Lawyers will of course assist with bringing the evidence together for the hearing, but they can only do that effectively if the evidence has been retained and if you are able to provide it to the lawyer.
Throughout your preparation, you need to keep in mind the point your case is trying to make. For example, demonstrating that your decision to dismiss an employee was fair.
This means preparing to answer questions about the case, and being able to present the appropriate evidence to create the strongest argument in your favour as possible. For example, if the employee was dismissed due to something that constitutes gross misconduct, such as theft, you need to be able to prove this took place.
Preparing your case means that, to some degree, you are trying to predict the questions you will be asked and are able to answer them. Having all your evidence and documentation ready can help you to see where the holes in your argument might be and give you the opportunity to find the solutions to these problems, giving you the most solid argument possible.
One element of your case you need to keep in mind is witness testimony.
If your tribunal centres on one specific event, you might be required to present witnesses who were there at the time. This could be other employees who were on the shop floor or the manager in charge of the shift, for example.
As with preparing your evidence, you need to be organised to ensure your witness statements are accurate and cover the points you think you might be asked to explain during the tribunal.
Preparing for an employment tribunal can be a time-consuming process. To help make this process easier, we provide FSB members with access to our FSB Employment Protection services. This includes advice on UK employment legislation and insurance protection to help protect your business should you be taken to a tribunal.
Key benefits of FSB Employment Protection, include:
To find out more about employment tribunals or to learn more about employment protection, get in touch with a member of the team or visit our FSB Employment Protection page.
A wealth of important information and advice, available online in-case you face dismissal or discrimination claims and employment tribunals.