What is an employment tribunal?
The employment tribunal is an independent body, similar to the courts, which will review and make a decision about an employment claim. The tribunal will hear nearly all types of employment cases, such as unfair dismissal, discrimination or redundancy.
Getting to the tribunal
The tribunal is effectively a last resort. First you must take steps to work with the other party involved in the dispute (i.e. your employer) to resolve the situation.
The first step is to follow your employer’s internal grievance procedure. This will be set out in your employer’s internal policies and a copy of this should be provided on request. Normally, you will provided with information on this process upon redundancy, or when you lodge a grievance with your manager.
If you do not feel that the internal process has resolved the situation you cannot go straight to the tribunal, you are required to notify the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). The organization will act as an intermediary and attempt to broker settlement between you and your employer. You are under no obligation to accept any offer put forward. You can also seek alternative means of resolution such as the appointment of a solicitor and mediation if you would prefer. But your dispute in any event must be registered with the organization.
If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful then Acas will issue a certificate stating this. It is on receipt of this certificate that the matter can be escalated to the tribunal. This can be done online via the Gov.uk website. When making a claim there will be a fee payable.
Who pays the fees?
Fees are not a one-off sum and you will be required to pay both a claim and hearing fee, and as the claimant you will be expected to pay the costs associated with you claim. Whilst this seems daunting, it is actually common practice and widely accepted that the successful claimant will be awarded both damages and their costs. These costs can include your solicitor’s fees if you appoint one.
There is a catch however. If you are successful but the tribunal outcome is the same as or similar to any settlement offer made during the process, which in the eyes of the tribunal you have unreasonably rejected, you can be stung not only for your fees, but also your employer’s fees. It is vital therefore that you consider all offers made.
Always seek advice
Disputes in the work place are never pleasant but they should not be ignored because you feel unsure or worried that the process will be costly or affect future employment. This is not the case and there are lots of websites that provide comprehensive advice: Gov.uk, Citizens Advice or Acas for instance. Alternatively, if you would like to speak to a solicitor, the Find a Solicitor tool from the Law Society can assist your search.