Claims to Employment Tribunals must be made within very strict time limits. In most cases, subject to the rules on ACAS early conciliation, the Tribunal must receive your claim within three months of the event being complained of. ACAS early conciliation effectively stops the clock running during the period that early conciliation is taking place (so it extends the time limit) but you must have contacted ACAS within three months of the event being complained of. This three months begins with the date your employment ended or when the matter you are complaining about happened. This means that if you were dismissed or, for example, were subjected to a detriment or act of discrimination on 6 May, then you must trigger ACAS early conciliation on or before 5 August. Once ACAS early conciliation has been completed the time limit for lodging your claim with the Employment Tribunal will depend on the circumstances but you will have at least 1 month from the date that early conciliation comes to an end to lodge your claim. This is a complicated area though and advice should be taken.
If your claim is received outside the time limit, the Tribunal will not be able to consider it unless there are exceptional reasons for the delay. It is your responsibility to ensure that the Tribunal Office receives your claim within the relevant time limit. If you miss the deadline for lodging a claim you should take legal advice as a matter of urgency.
Employment Tribunal Hearings
The Hearing takes place before an Employment Judge sitting alone or before an Employment Judge and two lay members.
The proceedings are not intended to be as formal as a court. There are no wigs or gowns and the parties remain seated throughout. However, witnesses give their evidence under oath or affirmation and most witnesses do find Tribunal hearings to be quite formal.
At the beginning of the hearing there are no opening statements. However, the Employment Judge may ask some initial questions to clarify the exact nature of the dispute. The party on whom the onus lies will then call their first witness. For example, in an unfair dismissal case where the dismissal is admitted the employer will usually lead evidence first.
In Scotland, as in other court procedures, this takes the form of the party’s legal representative asking a series of questions (known as examination-in-chief). In England and Wales, written statements of evidence are exchanged in advance of the Tribunal Hearing. Rather than carrying out an examination-in-chief, the witness statement will be taken as read.
The party who has given evidence (or whose statement has been taken as read) is then cross-examined by the opposing party’s representative who will put their client's version of events to that witness. They will attempt challenge and/or undermine the other party's case. The representative of the party who called the witness then has the opportunity to ask any further questions to clarify any points raised in cross-examination. This is known as re-examination. The Employment Tribunal panel may also ask questions at any stage.
The same process is then followed for any other witnesses giving evidence on behalf of the party on whom the onus lies. The roles are then reversed and the other side will then lead evidence from their own witnesses.
After evidence has been led by both sides closing submissions are made by each party.
Unless the Employment Tribunal 'reserves' its judgment, the Employment Judge will announce the judgment at the end of the hearing. If the judgment is reserved you will receive it in writing at a later date.
Employment Tribunal Awards
For details of Employment Tribunal Awards click here.