What to do if you receive an employment tribunal claim

by | Feb 4, 2022

What do you if your receive an employment tribunal claim

Many businesses will receive a tribunal claim against them at some point from an employee, former employee or even an applicant. Knowing what to expect could help you defend the claim as effectively as possible. Read on to understand more about the process, how to help prepare the defence, and our tips on how to reduce your legal costs.

Acas early conciliation

An employment tribunal claim usually does not come out of the blue. In most cases, the employee must contact Acas first to trigger early conciliation. Early conciliation lasts up to six weeks, during which time Acas mediate between you and the individual to try to settle the potential claim against your business. If the conciliation is unsuccessful, the individual is issued with a certificate. Without this, they cannot bring a claim. The door to settlement does not close after that; you can still negotiate through Acas or directly with the individual or their representative.

Receiving the claim

If the individual decides to bring a claim, they do not have to send it to you, instead they may send it to the tribunal. The tribunal will send you the claim form (called an ET1), often with an attachment setting out the claim in more detail (the particulars of claim). You will also receive a letter informing you of the date by which you have to submit a response and the form you need to fill in and return to the tribunal (called an ET3).

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines

It is crucial to check the deadline on the letter for sending your ET3 to the tribunal. This will be 28 calendar days from the date the ET1 was sent to you.

What happens if the response is late?

Tribunals are strict about the deadline. Miss it and you risk the tribunal deciding that your ET3 is not admissible. This usually means that your side of the story does not get heard.

Can I ask for extra time?

Either before or after the 28-day time limit, you can apply to the tribunal for an extension of time. There is no guarantee that it will be allowed, as the tribunal will consider the fairness of the request and why you could not meet the deadline. The application should be made as soon as possible. We can help.

Preparing to defend the claim

To defend your business as robustly as possible, we strongly recommend getting in touch with us as soon as you have received the claim. It is important that the detailed response to the claim (known as the grounds of resistance) is consistent with the paperwork that the tribunal examines later at the hearing. Collect and send us the relevant documents and emails so that we can ensure the response tallies with these.

Getting the response right

The ET3 form and grounds of resistance need to be completed carefully. These set out your side of the story and should address all the allegations in the claim. This is the backbone to your case, and you will be held to it by the tribunal. We can draft this to best protect your business.

It may be necessary to admit some elements of the claim which cannot realistically be defended, for example where a clear error was made in the calculation of notice pay. Tribunals may strike out part of a response if there is no reasonable prospect of successfully defending it. You also risk having to pay costs to the claimant for trying to defend the indefensible.

Should I delete unhelpful emails?

Further down the line in proceedings, the tribunal will require the parties to disclose all relevant documents to each other. This includes documents that are not favourable to your case. When tribunals refer to documents, this has a wide meaning and includes emails, notes from meetings, audio recording, texts, social media posts. These should be saved, regardless of whether they are helpful or not.

How to work effectively with your solicitor

  • Get in touch as early as possible – we will need input from your business into preparing the response and it can take time to get it right
  • Select one manager as the main point of contact to liaise with us, and take into account that dealing with the claim will increase the manager’s workload
  • Check the key information in the claim form, for example the claimant’s start and leaving dates
  • Have the key documents ready to send to us, for example in a conduct dismissal case this will include the investigation report, dismissal letter and any documents relating to the appeal.
We can help
For further information on how to deal with an employment tribunal claim, please contact us.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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