Employment tribunals are independent tribunal bodies that deal with disputes between employers and employees or anyone representing them like the trade union. Any matters related to work from pay disputes to unfair dismissal and discrimination at the workplace can be brought up to the employment tribunals.
When the employer receives an employment tribunal claim, this means that the Early Conciliation intervention by Acas failed to resolve the issue. The employer now has to act fast to address the claim otherwise if they lose, they might be fined by the employment tribunals in addition to paying the reward made to the claimant.
How does the employer respond?
When the ET1 form from the employment tribunals arrives at an employer’s office, they have to deal with it promptly. The employer only has 28 days to respond to the claim, and they have to do so on an ET3 form that must be sent to the tribunal office within time. One of the first things the employer should do is assign someone, usually from HR, to handle the claim. The assigned person would:
- Be responsible for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the case.
- Suggest how to proceed, and if the employer should fight the claim.
- Collaborate with the legal team to prepare a defence in case the employer wants to contest it.
Whether or not the employer thinks they have a strong case, settling the claim with the claimant is usually the best option economically speaking. Defending claims at the employment tribunals take a long time and can be costly.
Since the employer has already gone through the hearings at Acas, they have a good idea of the details of the claimant’s case. This knowledge can be beneficial if they decide to settle with the disgruntled employee.
What if the employer wants to defend the case?
If the employer decides they have a strong case and they wouldn’t settle, then a response to ET1 is warranted. The response in the ET3 form should be:
- Carefully crafted to address the specific allegations of the claimant.
- Cover all legal matters.
Because this is probably the only chance to submit all the information the employer has, it’s important to explore all the legal issues involved in the response.
There shouldn’t be any discrepancies between the response and the evidence submitted by the claimant. The statements of both parties (claimant and employer) are usually read before the hearings, not during the hearings themselves. So it’s important that the statements the employer presents are accurate, supported by evidence, and substantiated with witnesses if applicable.
Once that is ready the ET3 form has to reach the employment tribunals offices before the deadline expires.
Employment tribunals hold public hearings and are independent of the government. But there are important things for the employer to remember. One of them is that even if the employer wins, they will still have to meet their costs. In other words, the employer will not be compensated for the costs they incurred for successfully defending the claim. Of note also the fact that the window of appeals is only two days. So the employer will have to act quickly if they want to appeal the employment tribunals verdict.
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