Can You Take Your Employer to an Employment Tribunal?

Yes, you certainly can. And it is essential to know everything you can before taking action.

In the complex landscape of employment rights and disputes in the UK, understanding the mechanisms in place for resolution is crucial for both employers and employees. At the forefront of these mechanisms is the Employment Tribunal, a judicial body designed to adjudicate a wide range of employment disputes.

This blog section aims to shed light on what an Employment Tribunal is and explore the circumstances under which someone might consider taking their employer to it. Let’s delve deeper into the intricate aspect of employment law and explore why individuals like you might consider seeking recourse through an Employment Tribunal.

What is an Employment Tribunal?

An Employment Tribunal is a statutory court of law in the United Kingdom that hears disputes between employers and employees or workers. It functions to resolve various employment-related disputes and ensures that justice is served in accordance with employment laws and regulations. Unlike traditional courts, Employment Tribunals are less formal, though they possess the legal authority to make binding decisions.

The primary purpose of Employment Tribunals is to offer a fair and impartial venue where both parties can present their case. A Tribunal aims to rectify wrongs and provide remedies in situations where employment rights have been violated. They serve not only to adjudicate disputes but also to uphold the principles of fairness and equality within the workplace.

Are You Eligible to File a Claim?

Deciding to take legal action against your employer is a significant step that requires careful consideration and understanding of the eligibility criteria for bringing a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

In general, individuals who have been employed by a company in the UK have the right to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal. This includes full-time and part-time employees, as well as those on fixed-term contracts. However, there are certain conditions and exceptions based on the nature of the dispute and the individual’s employment status.

The eligibility to make a tribunal claim heavily depends on one’s employment status, which is categorised into three main types: employees, workers, and self-employed/independent contractors.

  • Employees are those who work under an employment contract and are owed a wider range of employment rights and protections. Typically, employees have full eligibility to bring forth a wide spectrum of claims to an Employment Tribunal, including unfair dismissal, redundancy, and discrimination claims.
  • Workers, including casual or zero-hour contract workers, have a more limited range of employment rights compared to employees. While they can still make certain claims, such as unlawful deduction from wages and some discrimination issues, they cannot bring claims of unfair dismissal due to their employment status.
  • Self-Employed/Independent Contractors generally do not have the right to bring claims to an Employment Tribunal because they operate under a contract for services, rather than a contract of employment. There are exceptions, particularly in cases involving discrimination, where independent contractors may be eligible to make a claim.
  • It’s essential to accurately determine your employment status, as this directly influences the types of claims you are eligible to pursue and the rights available to you under employment law.

Time Limits for Making a Claim

Timing is critical when considering an Employment Tribunal claim. The standard time limit for most claims is 3 months minus 1 day from the date of the event you’re making a claim about, such as the date of dismissal or the incident of discrimination.

However, it’s crucial to begin the mandatory Early Conciliation process through ACAS as soon as possible within this timeframe, as it pauses the clock on your claim deadline while attempts are made to resolve the dispute outside of a tribunal setting.

For certain types of claims, such as redundancy pay or equal pay, different time limits may apply. Given these complexities and the strict enforcement of deadlines, ensuring you’re aware of the relevant time limits for your specific claim is paramount to maintaining your eligibility to seek resolution through an Employment Tribunal.

What are the Types of Claims That Can Be Brought Before an Employment Tribunal?

The Employment Tribunal handles a wide variety of employment-related disputes. Below are some of the most common types of claims:

Unfair Dismissal

Unfair dismissal ranks highly among the common reasons employees bring claims to Employment Tribunals. If you believe you have been terminated without a fair reason and have 2 years service or more, or your employer failed to follow the correct procedure during your dismissal, you might have grounds for a claim.


Discrimination claims cover instances where employees face adverse treatment based on protected characteristics such as age, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or gender reassignment. The Equality Act 2010 safeguards individuals against discriminatory practices in the workplace. If you’ve been subjected to discrimination, whether through hiring practices, promotion opportunities, remuneration, or daily work interactions, an Employment Tribunal can assess your case and provide recourse.

Wage Disputes

Discrepancies over wages, including unpaid wages, underpayment, holiday pay, or unauthorised deductions, constitute another significant area of tribunal claims. Employees are entitled to receive the agreed compensation for their work and have the right to challenge any discrepancies through an Employment Tribunal.

Breach of Contract

Employment contracts lay the foundation of the employer-employee relationship, outlining terms regarding roles, responsibilities, wages, and termination procedures. Any deviation from these agreed terms by the employer, such as unilaterally altering job roles or failing to adhere to the notice period, can be grounds for a breach of contract claim.

Working Conditions and Safety

Employees have a right to a safe and healthy working environment. Claims related to unsafe working conditions, failure to address health and safety concerns, or inadequate provision of protective equipment can be taken to an Employment Tribunal. These claims emphasise the employer’s responsibility to ensure employee well-being.

Redundancy and Whistleblowing

Disputes over redundancy procedures, including selection criteria and redundancy pay, can also be brought before a tribunal. Additionally, employees who face detrimental treatment or dismissal for whistleblowing – reporting wrongdoing in the workplace – are protected under UK law and can seek protection and remedy through a tribunal.

Pre-Claim Conciliation Requirement

It’s important to note that almost all Employment Tribunal claims must comply with the rules on pre-claim conciliation by ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). This process aims to resolve disputes before they escalate to a tribunal claim, emphasising the importance of seeking early resolution where possible.

Understanding these grounds for bringing an employer to an Employment Tribunal empowers employees to stand up for their rights and seek justice in the face of unfair treatment. If you find yourself in a situation that warrants legal action, familiarising yourself with these reasons and considering professional advice from an HR consultancy in the UK can guide your next steps toward resolution.

Things to Consider Before Filing a Claim

Taking legal action against an employer is a significant step with potentially far-reaching implications. Before initiating the formal process of filing a claim with an Employment Tribunal, there are important preparatory steps to consider. These measures not only fulfil legal requirements but also help to strengthen your case, should it proceed to a tribunal.

Try to Resolve the Issue Internally First

Before escalating a dispute to an Employment Tribunal, it’s advisable to attempt resolving the issue internally through your employer’s grievance procedures. Many companies have structured processes for addressing employee concerns and disputes, ranging from informal meetings with supervisors to formal grievance hearings.

Taking this initial step can often lead to a quicker, less adversarial resolution. Furthermore, demonstrating that you’ve made efforts to resolve the issue internally can be looked upon favourably by the tribunal, should the case advance to that stage.

Gather Evidence and Documentation to Support Your Claim

Preparation is key when considering legal action. Begin by gathering all relevant evidence and documentation related to your dispute.

This can include:

  • Employment contracts outlining your role, responsibilities, and terms of employment.
  • Pay slips and records of any disputed payments or deductions.
  • Emails, letters, and communications between you and your employer or HR department regarding the dispute.
  • Witness statements from colleagues who can corroborate your claims.
  • Diary entries or logs documenting instances of the issue over time.

Having a robust collection of evidence will not only support your claim but also help in accurately presenting your case during the Early Conciliation process or, if necessary, at the tribunal. Organising this information early on can significantly impact the strength and clarity of your claim.

How to File a Claim?

Deciding to take a legal stand by filing a claim against your employer can be daunting. However, understanding the procedure can demystify the process and empower you to move forward with confidence.

By following this guide and preparing thoroughly, you can confidently advocate for your rights in the workplace.

  • Evaluate Your Situation: Before initiating the process, ensure that your case falls within the remit of claims adjudicated by Employment Tribunals. This includes disputes related to unfair dismissal, discrimination, wage issues, and more.
  • Attempt Internal Resolution: Try to resolve the issue with your employer using internal grievance procedures. This step is not only constructive but often required by the tribunal as evidence of attempting to settle the dispute amicably.
  • Complete Early Conciliation with ACAS: Before filing a claim, you must contact ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) for Early Conciliation. This free service aims to resolve disputes without the need for a tribunal. If conciliation fails, you’ll receive a certificate from ACAS, which is necessary to proceed with your claim.
  • Fill Out the ET1 Claim Form: To formally start your claim, you need to complete the ET1 form, available online on the Government’s Employment Tribunal website or in paper format. The form requires detailed information about you, your employer, and the nature of your claim.
  • Submit Your Claim: Once the ET1 form is completed, submit it either online or by mail to the Employment Tribunal. Ensure you keep a copy for your records.
  • Await Response from Your Employer: After your claim is filed, your employer will be notified and given a chance to respond using the ET3 form. The tribunal will send you a copy of their response.
  • Prepare for the Hearing: Gather all relevant documentation and evidence to support your claim. This might include contracts, pay slips, correspondence, and witness statements. Consider seeking legal advice to strengthen your case.
  • Attend the Hearing: The final step is the tribunal hearing itself, where both parties present their case. The tribunal will then make a decision based on the evidence presented.

What are the Potential Outcomes and Remedies?

The outcome of an Employment Tribunal can vary significantly depending on the nature of the case and the evidence presented. Here are some possible outcomes and remedies:

  • Compensation: One of the most common outcomes if the claim is successful is financial compensation. The amount awarded depends on the specific circumstances of the case, such as lost earnings, future loss of earnings, and, in cases of discrimination, compensation for injury to feelings.
  • Reinstatement or Re-engagement: In some cases, the tribunal may order that you be reinstated to your old job or re-engaged in a different, suitable role within the company. While less common, this remedy demonstrates the tribunal’s ability to facilitate ongoing employment relationships.
  • Declaration of Rights: The tribunal may make a declaration regarding your rights, clarifying the legal position between you and your employer. This outcome is more typical in disputes regarding employment status or terms of the employment contract.
  • No Award: If the tribunal finds in favour of your employer, or if it concludes that your claim was not made out on the evidence, then no award or remedy will be granted.

Understanding what to expect after filing a claim can help manage expectations and ensure you’re prepared for the process ahead. It’s crucial to remember that each Employment Tribunal case is unique, and outcomes can vary widely based on the specifics of your situation.

Standing Up for Your Rights: The Journey Through Employment Tribunal Claims

Knowledge is both a shield and a beacon; it protects you from unjust treatment and guides you toward fair resolutions. The process of taking an employer to an Employment Tribunal underscores the importance of this knowledge, serving as a testament to the mechanisms in place to uphold justice in the workplace. It’s a reminder that while the road may be complex and challenging, it is attainable with the right information and preparation.

Are you facing an employment dispute that warrants legal action? Don’t navigate the complexities of the Employment Tribunal process alone. Contact Harwood HR today for help with early conciliation and expert guidance tailored to employers.


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