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What happens during an employment tribunal?

  • Blog
  • 20 February 2017

An employment tribunal can be confusing. From a situation with an employee escalating to the point of legal intervention to preparation for the hearing and the tribunal itself, there are a number of different components to consider.

Hiring legal counsel and preparation for a tribunal can also be expensive and take your focus away from the day-to-day running of your business.

We explain what happens in the lead up to an employment tribunal and what occurs during the hearing itself.

What happens during an employment tribunal?

Prior to the hearing

Before a tribunal, both parties are usually asked to attend a preliminary hearing. This is designed to give each party the opportunity to be informed of the date of the tribunal and how long it should take.

In some cases, before a hearing takes place, the opportunity will be given for you to potentially reach a settlement with the claimant. This allows the case to be resolved without you having to go to the tribunal itself.

If a settlement can’t be reached and the hearing must take place, you need to ensure your case is put together properly. This includes collecting all the supporting information necessary to present your argument to the tribunal.

Before the hearing, you should ensure you have:

  • Any required or necessary paperwork prepared, including anything you want to present as evidence
  • Correct details of any potential witnesses
  • Notes for presenting your case to the tribunal

At the hearing

At the hearing you will be asked to present any evidence that supports your case. This could involve documentation such as payslips, and other financial information, in the event of a pay dispute. Evidence could also include witnesses, if, for instance, the case focuses on the actions of a staff member in the workplace.

Your case is presented to a presiding judge in the presence of your legal counsel. You can present the case, or, depending on the situation, someone else can do this for you, such as an experienced friend or your lawyer. The claimant will also present their case against you.

The hearing tends to involve:

  • Presenting your case – using evidence and witnesses to argue your point
  • Answering questions – to help provide clearer understanding for the judge
  • Deliberation – time taken by the presiding judge to reach a decision on the case
  • Final decision – revealing which party has ‘won’ and outlining any additional steps that will need to be taken, such as payment of compensation.

The results

The judge sometimes decides the results of the hearing on the day of the tribunal.

However, it’s important to note that sometimes decisions will take longer. This means you will be informed of the results and what you must do next, such as paying compensation, at a later date.

If you win you don’t usually receive any compensation. It’s possible, however, if the tribunal agrees the need for a hearing was unnecessary, to ask that the claimant pays your costs, such as expenses for your witnesses.

In the event that you lose the tribunal, there are a number of actions that can be taken.

These include:

  • Paying the other party’s expenses and costs for the tribunal
  • Awarding a staff member their job back
  • Paying compensation – this is an amount worked out based on the financial losses the claimant has incurred due to your actions

Compensation is often also used if a staff member cannot return to their previous position. In some cases, the amount of compensation that can be paid is limited. However, if you’re taken to a tribunal due to some form of discrimination, there is no limit to the amount of compensation you can be asked to pay.

How can FSB help during an employment tribunal?

Protecting your business against any action that could lead to a tribunal can be difficult. To help, we provide FSB members with Employment Protection services. This includes up-to-date advice on UK employment legislation and insurance protection should your business be taken to a tribunal.

Key benefits of FSB Employment Protection, include:

  • An employment advice helpline manned by qualified lawyers
  • Access to specialist barristers and solicitors to act as representation during a tribunal
  • Employment tribunal insurance – helping to cover any legal costs and compensation claims, up to the value of £50,000

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.

FSB Employment Protection from FSB

A wealth of important information and advice, available online in-case you face dismissal or discrimination claims and employment tribunals.

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