Whilst you may have issued an employment tribunal claim, that does not mean the decision will be instantaneous. There are certain time limits that must be met.
When can you bring a claim?
You have three months in which to bring a claim. The clock starts ticking immediately from the point of dispute. This date varies depending on the type of grievance. If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed then the clock starts on the day of dismissal. For a claim made about discrimination or a specific incident the clock starts counting down from the day the incident happened.
It is vital therefore that you make you decision to action a claim pretty sharply. But never fear the time limit has the breaks put on whilst you go through the mandatory Acas conciliation process. This allows you time to consider and attempt to reach a settlement without the need to make a claim.
After you have made the claim
Once you have made the claim the tribunal will issue and action service on your employer (the defendant). Once in receipt of the paperwork, the defendant has 28 days to respond to your claim. This is a set time period. If no reply is forthcoming, then the tribunal may take the view that the case can be decided without the defendant’s reply and dispense with the need for a hearing.
The reply is in…
Once the reply is received the tribunal will review the evidence and determine if the matter needs requires a primary hearing. A primary hearing will be called if a judge feels:
- Whether all or part of your claim can proceed, or
- The date and time of the final hearing, or
- The time scales for the hearing.
This is not a definitive list and if a judge feels that a questions needs answering prior to the final hearing a primary hearing may be called.
Time to collect the evidence
Once you have issued the claim both you and your employer are allowed to request documentation and to take time to gather the necessary evidence and witnesses to support the case. It is normal for the tribunal to issue an order setting out the timeline for this. The documents you can request vary from case to case but include,
- Your employment contract
- Pay slips or benefits breakdown
- Pension information
- Notes about meetings which took place.
Witnesses may attend the final hearing to provide evidence only if it is relevant to the case. If a witness is unwilling to attend you can request the tribunal requests their attendance and orders they appear.
The final hearing arrives
The tribunal will set the date for the final hearing. This can be a case of how long is a piece of string and is entirely dependent on the tribunal’s diary.
At the hearing, you will present your case to the tribunal along with your supporting evidence, (the tribunal will tell you how many copies to bring). The case can be present by a third party on your behalf if you wish, such as a solicitor, family member or friend. You as the claimant will normally be heard first and you will be questioned by the Judge, the defendant and if the case requires two other tribunal members. The tribunal will then hear the evidence of the defendant and adjourn to make a decision.
Receiving the decision
Normal procedure dictates that you receive the decision in the post either a few days or weeks after the hearing. The decision will set out whether you have won and, if so, what steps are to be taken to compensate you, such as a damages payment, improving work condition or reinstating your employment. It will also outline a timescale for the outcome to be actioned. If this is ignored, then you may need to start enforcement proceedings.
If you lose the proceedings, you have 14 days to write to the tribunal and ask that they reconsider. You must set out good reasons for this and fees are required to be paid. Depending on the claim type, these fees can be £100 to £350. You can also approach the Employment Appeal Tribunal under specific circumstances.
Whilst the early stages of the case have a strict timescale, it must be remembered that when you get past these, it really does become a case of 'How long is a piece of string?' and the matter can take several months, even up to a year, to be resolved.