What to do if your employee takes you to a tribunal

by Nadine De Souza

Even if your business is very well managed with all the best policies and procedures in place, you could still, unfortunately, find yourself at the receiving end of a tribunal claim. This could be because of pay, dismissal or discrimination. 

It’s important that you know how to respond to a claim as there are deadlines to stick to, so continue reading for our simple guide.

Tips on the course you should take when faced with an employment claim

1. Contact ACAS

Before an employment claim is lodged by an employee ACAS has to be notified. An independent, impartial ACAS conciliator will work with you and your employee to try and come to a compromise. It's only if this doesn’t work out that the matter will proceed to formal proceedings. This is called ‘conciliation’ and is the cheapest and fastest way to solve the dispute.

2. Respond to the claim quickly

If you do receive a formal claim from a tribunal, then you must respond within 28 days. Don’t just ignore it and hope that it will go away. If you need more time to respond to the claim, then you can ask the tribunal for an extension. You can respond using the online response service or employment tribunal response form.

3. Offer the employee compensation

You could also come to a compromise by getting your employee to sign a settlement agreement. Basically, this agreement offers the employee compensation in return for them dropping their case. Your employee must get legal advice before they sign this agreement.

4. Get legal advice

You should decide whether you want to get legal advice. Although it will cost you money, a good lawyer should be able to tell you what your chances of defending the claim are, and then will be able to put your case to the employment tribunal.

5. Provide the relevant documents

The tribunal might write to you to say that there is going to be a preliminary hearing. This type of hearing is to decide on the management of the case and to deal with matters like when witness statements will be due. You have to disclose to your employee all the relevant documents you have in relation to the dispute. Your employee can look at these documents. Your employee also has to disclose to you their documents. 

6. Bring copies of the documents to court

You have to let the employee know seven days in advance of any documents that you’ll be relying on as part of your case. You should bring six copies of each document to the tribunal. 

7. Obtain witnesses

You may want to have witnesses attend the hearing to support your case. If the witness doesn’t want to attend, then you can ask the tribunal to force them to attend. You will have to apply to the tribunal for this in writing leaving plenty of time before the hearing. You will want to call witnesses who were involved in the decision-making process.

Notice of the hearing

You’ll be told about the hearing at least 14 days in advance. The tribunal is not as formal as a court and no one wears a wig and gown. 

Giving evidence

It's possible to give evidence by reading a statement. 

Timing of the decision

The tribunal’s decision is usually given on the day of the hearing, but you might receive it in the post a few days' later.


If you lose the case, then you might have to pay the employee compensation or give them their job back. There is no limit on the amount of compensation you have to pay if it’s a case of discrimination.  

Paying compensation

You usually have to pay any compensation within 14 days of the judgment. If you don’t pay, then you can be forced to by a court. 

Employment tribunal costs

The tribunal can order losing employers to pay a penalty on top of any award made to the employee. These penalties are payable to the Secretary of State if the employer has breached the employee’s employment rights and has ‘one or more aggravating features’. The minimum amount is £100 and no more than £5,000.

The appeal procedure

If you don’t agree with a tribunal’s decision, then you can get the tribunal to look at it again or appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. You should write to the tribunal within 14 days saying why you want the decision to be reviewed. There should be a good reason, for example, new evidence has come to light. If you want to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, you should fill in a notice of appeal form. You must appeal within 42 days of the date the decision was sent to you or the reasons were sent to you.

Help from Lawpack

If you want more in-depth information – from an employment lawyer – about all aspects of employment law, then read our guide Employment Law Made Easy. Packed with tips and expert advice on complying with employment legislation.

Other information

Published on: May 25, 2014

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