Employment Tribunal

Employment Tribunal

Employment Tribunals are tribunal Non-Departmental Public Bodies in England and Wales and Scotland which have statutory jurisdiction to hear many kinds of disputes between employers and employees. The most common disputes are concerned with unfair dismissal, redundancy payments and employment discrimination. The Tribunals are part of the UK tribunals system, administered by the Tribunals Service and regulated and supervised by the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council.


Employment Tribunals were created as Industrial Tribunals by the Industrial Training Act 1964. Industrial Tribunals were judicial bodies consisting of a lawyer, who was the chairman, an individual nominated by an employer association, and another by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) or TUC-affiliated union. These independent panels heard and made legally-binding rulings in relation to employment law disputes. Under the Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998, their name was changed to Employment Tribunals from 1 August 1998. [Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998, [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts1998/ukpga_19980008_en_1#pt1-pb1-l1g1 s.1(1)] ] . Employment Tribunals continue to perform the same function as the Industrial Tribunals.


Employment Tribunals are constituted and operate according to statutory rules issued by the Secretary of State. [Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2004, [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2004/20041861.htm SI 1861/2004] ] [Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations, [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2004/20042351.htm SI 2351/2004] ] [Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2005, [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051865.htm SI 1865/2005] ] These rules set out the Tribunals' main objectives and procedures, and matters such as time limits for making a claim, and dealing with requests for reviews and appeals.

The rules concerning time limits are complex but the typical time limit for making a claim is three months from the date of the act complained of, but the limit can be extended to six months where an employee complains first to the employer, even after employment has been terminated. Claims are normally initiated by individuals, and normally responded to by employers, or former employers, or trade unions. The terms "claimant" and "respondent" are used to describe the parties involved in Tribunal proceedings. Normally each party pays its own costs. Tribunals will order one party to pay the other party's costs in exceptional circumstances, where it is claimed that one party has claimed vexatiously.

Tribunals are intended to be informal and to encourage parties to represent themselves. There is no special court dress or complex civil procedure rules as at a County Court.


Prior to a hearing case management may take place to hand down directions as to how the full hearing will be heard. This can be by one of several means, either through correspondence between the parties and the Employment Tribunal or in a Case Management Discussion (CMD). An increasing number of Case Management Discussions take place by telephone.

At the next stage there is a panel of three people, a legally qualified Chair, and two lay members. The lay members use their employment experience in judging the facts. During the hearing the Chair is under a duty to ensure that the hearing is conducted fairly, taking into account both sides' submissions on the law and facts. Generally witnesses are called for both sides with witness statements being supplied in advance.

One of the lay members should have experience from the employer's side of disputes and the other from the trade union movement. Sometimes the Chair sits on their own, for example, to hear any legal arguments.


A party may apply to the Tribunal requesting a review of the Tribunal's own decision. A Tribunal may also review its decision of its own motion. Decisions can be reviewed where an error is relatively minor, for example a clerical error.

Where a party believes the Tribunal has misapplied the law or acted perversely, the review process is inappropriate and the party must appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. For example the right of a Chair to strike-out all or part of a claim while sitting alone in a pre-hearing review has been described by the Appeals tribunal as a "draconian power", but is regularly used. Chairs also have the right to warn parties that costs may be found against them if they appeal or continue their case, or to ask for security for costs. As in other courts, the risk of costs being found against may deter genuine claimants who represent themselves, as well as nuisance claimants. This second draconian power restricts control of the first.

Parties are expected to comply with strictly enforced time limits when applying for a review or appeal.


The Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom) operates the Employment Tribunals Service which is a branch of the Tribunals Service. The Tribunals Service maintains a list of claims in which Tribunals have jurisdiction. [ cite web | url=http://www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk/about_us/jurisdiction_list.htm | title=Jurisdiction list | publisher=Employment Tribunals Service | accessdate=2008-03-21 | year=2006 ]


The Employment Tribunals Service published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2005-06 in July 2006 which included these key points: [ cite web | url=http://www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk/publications/documents/annual_reports/ETSAR05-06.pdf | year=2006 | title=Annual Report and Accounts 2005-2006 | publisher=Employment Tribunals Service | accessdate=2008-03-21 ]
*In 2005/2006, there were 115,039 claims accepted, compared with 86,181 in 2004/2005 and 115,042 in 2003/2004.
*18% of claims were successful at a full hearing in 2005/2006; the remainder were either settled, withdrawn, unsuccessful or otherwise disposed of.
*The median award for unfair dismissal was £4,228; the average award was £8,679.
*The median award for discrimination was between £5,546 and £9,021 (depending on the type of discrimination).
*Costs were awarded against claimants in 148 cases, and against respondents in 432 cases. The median costs award was £1,136.
*867 Employment Tribunal decisions were appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Of those, 191 were withdrawn, 378 were dismissed and the remaining 298 appeals were allowed.

External links

* cite web | url=http://www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk/index.htm | title=Employment Tribunals | accessdate=2003-03-21 | year=2007 | publisher=Tribunals Service
* [http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/emplaw/tribunals/ Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) resources on tribunals]


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