Navigating Employment Disputes: The Path of Early Conciliation and Tribunal Proceedings

Navigating Employment Disputes: The Path of Early Conciliation and Tribunal Proceedings

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Written by: SafeWorkforce
28th July

What are Employment Disputes?

The term 'Employment Disputes' encompasses work-related issues, including mistreatment by management, colleagues, third parties, or customers, where the employer failed to prevent or address the problem. It covers all sorts of complaints that you might have at work.

Please note: The following is a summary for information purposes and should not be considered advice.

Employment Disputes: Early Conciliation

In the event of Employment Disputes, if a problem with an employee cannot be resolved informally or formally or if they are dismissed, they may make a claim to an employment tribunal. However, before they can do this, they must tell Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) they are looking to make a tribunal claim and ACAS will offer the employee “early conciliation” and a conciliator will be appointed. In Northern Ireland, this would be the Labour Relations Agency rather than ACAS.

The conciliator is not there to instruct either party on whether to agree a settlement or not nor should they comment on the strength/weakness of the case, but early conciliation is free and confidential and will be quick than going through the tribunal process.

Normally, the employee will choose how they want to resolve their dispute when speaking about the details of the dispute with the ACAS conciliator. The conciliator would then put that to the employer. If the employer agrees to try to resolve the issue via early conciliation in the way the employee requests, then they will have one month to try reach a settlement. There is the possibility to extend this period by a further two weeks if both parties must agree.

For further advice, please do contact us.

Employment Disputes: Employment Tribunal

If you do not reach an agreement with the employee as part of the early conciliation process, the employee will receive a certificate from ACAS that allows them to proceed to an employment tribunal. The employee will then have at least one month to from receiving the certificate to make their claim and submit it to the relevant employment tribunal.

When the ET1 is then sent to you as the employer, you will have 28 days from the day it is sent (not when it is received) to respond using an ET3 form and submitting it to relevant employment tribunal. Please note you will usually be referred to as the “respondent” in the papers.

You will need to confirm the details of the employee (claimant) and yourself and outline your defence to the claim. A copy of this will be sent to the employee by the employment tribunal.

The 28 days provided are essential for responding as after 28 days the case will be listed for an employment tribunal hearing. If you do not respond in this time frame, you will lose the right to take part in further proceedings.

Before the hearing, you may need to take part in a preliminary hearing. This will usually be held by a single judge with no other panel members present. The purpose of the preliminary hearing may be to resolve factual issues to decide if the full hearing can go ahead. This may be things such as (but not limited to):

  • The employment status of the claimant
  • Whether the claim was brought in time
  • Did the claimant have the required length of service to file a claim

The preliminary hearing may be used to give directions in order for the hearing to proceed as smoothly as possible. 

Claims can also be struck out at this point if all or part of the claim is scandalous, or vexatious or has no reasonable prospects of success.

Alternatively, if the judge believes that any part of the claim or defence put forward has “no reasonable prospects of success”, they can order the party to pay a deposit of up to £1,000 to continue. The deposit will be refunded if that party then goes on to win their case. If a party refuses to pay a deposit within 21 days, the claim or defence can be struck out.

In the lead up to the hearing:

Once a date is listed, both parties will be provided with directions from the employment tribunal.

You will typically need to provide:

  • Written witness statements (and share these with the claimant)
  • An agreed bundle of documents for the claim which the respondent would then usually provide
  • The claimant will also produce a schedule of loss. This is a calculation of the compensation the claimant wants.

At the hearing:

The tribunal will determine how the hearing will be conducted. In unfair dismissal claims, the respondent is usually asked to respond first.

Neither party has to have a representative (typically a solicitor) but due to the complexity of the law and process, both claimants and respondents tend to instruct solicitors to help them with their claim or defence respectively.

Each party will present its evidence and calls their witnesses to take the stand and where they will be cross-examined by the other party. The employment tribunal will then ask any questions before the witnesses’ representative asks any final questions.

Once both sides have presented all their evidence, each party then sums up their key points. The panel will then adjourn to consider their decision.

The decision:

The employment tribunal will give its judgement in summary form (i.e., identifying just the key facts) before both parties leave the building. The extended reasons for the decision are then usually given within 14 days.

The tribunal will decide who “won” the case and what remedies will be given. The remedy will depend on the nature of the claim and may consist of things such as compensation, re-instatement, or re-engagement.

For further information on how to respond to an ET1, please contact us.

A reminder: This is a summary for information purposes and should not be considered advice.

Why SafeWorkforce?

At SafeWorkforce we’re able to offer you an outsourcing service for your Human Resource needs so that you get:

    • Specialist guidance from our experts.

    • Supporting you in becoming legal and compliant.

    • A tailored approach that suits your business.

To speak to a member of the team, get in touch on 0333 355 9140 opt.4 or make an enquiry.