Employers these days all face the very real prospect of tribunal claims. Although employment tribunals were originally supposed to be quick, cheap and informal, they have evolved into almost the complete opposite.
Most claims are settled or withdrawn before they get to trial. It’s perfectly acceptable for employers to lodge and defend their own claims and so it’s worth knowing how to handle the early stages of a claim, without having to go to a solicitor. So what does an employer have to do if a claim arrives? The first indication of a claim is the arrival of the ET1 form.
It will be accompanied by a blank ET3 on which you have to set out your defence. This has to be submitted within 28 days. You will have to gather the evidence that proves your point. Include any document that is an important part of the story. For example, in the case of a dismissal, make sure you include investigation notes, the letter inviting the employee to the disciplinary hearing, notes of the disciplinary hearing, the dismissal letter, notes of the appeal hearing and the appeal outcome letter.
You will also take witness statements from people who can give evidence to support your case. The employment tribunal will usually give orders about the dates on which the parties should complete certain tasks, for example, the date by which you have to exchange witness statements. One of the tasks is to prepare the bundle.
This is usually, but not always, done by the Respondent (the employer). The bundle includes all the documents relied on by the parties. In some cases, the tribunal might decide there will be a pre-hearing review, or you might ask for one as part of the case preparation. A PHR is like a mini-version of the trial, but it only considers one point.
For example, if the judge feels that the case is weak the claim may be struck out or the Claimant required to make a payment in order to be allowed to continue. A PHR will also consider legal points which may have to be determined before the case goes to trial. For example, in the case of an unfair dismissal claim, the employer might say that the Claimant has insufficient service to be able to lodge the claim. The court then has to decide if the Claimant is able to continue.
If the case is allowed to continue, you will have to prepare your witnesses for the trial and prepare for your examination in chief, asking questions of your own witness, and for cross-examination. For more information about preparing for an employment tribunal (ET1 to trial),visit our website.
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