What happens at an Employment Tribunal Hearing?
We understand going to the Employment Tribunal can be a daunting prospect. Read on for guidance as to what might happen at your Hearing in the Employment Tribunal.
Reaching the Employment Tribunal Hearing
Before the Hearing, you will have complied with various tasks as set out by the Employment Tribunal in Case Management Orders. This will have included disclosing documents to the other party, preparing witness statements and agreeing a Bundle of Documents for the hearing.
The Case Management Orders will also contain information about the Hearing. It will tell you when and where the Hearing will take place and what you need to do before attending. This might include providing a chronology or an updated Schedule of Loss. Ensure you carefully review the Case Management Orders in good time before the Hearing to make sure you have done everything asked of you and have all the information you need for the Employment Tribunal Hearing.
What is a Employment Tribunal Hearing for?
Ultimately, the outcome of your claim will be decided at a Hearing. A decision will be made as to whether your claim is successful (in full or in part), or whether your claim has not been successful. This is sometimes referred to as liability.
If all or part of your claim has been successful, it is usual for the Employment Tribunal to determine a remedy at the Hearing, meaning what award you are to receive. If your case is particularly complex or has many elements to it, you might not get the remedy information at the Hearing and a Remedy Hearing may be listed separately at a later date.
Arriving at the Employment Tribunal Hearing
You should arrive at the Employment Tribunal Hearing in plenty of time before the listed start time. You should inform the Employment Tribunal staff who you are and which case you are there for. There will usually be a separate waiting area for the Claimant and Respondent, so you will be directed where to go.
Who will hear my claim?
It depends on the type of claim you have made as to who will hear and make a decision about your claim.
If your claim is considered to be fairly straightforward; e.g unfair dismissal, breach of contract or unlawful deduction from wages, it is likely it will be heard by an Employment Tribunal Judge alone.
If your claim is more complex, for example it contains allegations of discrimination or whistleblowing, it is likely your claim will be heard by a three-person panel. The panel will be headed by an Employment Tribunal Judge. The other panel members do not have a legal background. Broadly, one of the members will have an employer-based background (such as Human Resources) and the other an employee-based background (such as Trade Union). Despite their background, all panel members will be neutral.
How do I address the panel members?
Whether your claim is being heard by an Employment Tribunal Judge sitting alone, or a panel of three, you should always address each of them as Sir or Madam as appropriate.
What might happen in the Employment Tribunal Hearing?
The Employment Tribunal Judge will begin by outlining the legal issues that need to be decided. The legal issues are the points or tests that need to be proven for your claim to be successful.
Next, the Employment Tribunal Judge will usually provide an overview of how they want the Hearing to be conducted. If you are representing yourself, ensure you understand and you follow their instructions. If you do not understand, just ask them to explain again.
The Employment Tribunal Judge may then ask you to leave the room and return to the waiting rooms whilst they review the witness statements and relevant documents. Once the Employment Tribunal Judge is ready, you will be asked to return.
Each witness will be called to give their evidence. The witness statement already submitted will be their primary evidence, or ‘Evidence in Chief’. The Employment Tribunal Judge (and panel) will have read the statement and the witness will be asked to confirm the contents of their statement as true and accurate. If there are any changes that are necessary, the witness should then speak up.
If it is your witness, you will have the opportunity to ask them about any new information which has arisen since they wrote their statement, for example, they may have received a copy of the witness statements from the other side and may wish to comment or correct what has been said. Once you have asked questions to your witness, the other party will have the opportunity to ask them questions, which is known as ‘Cross Examination’. At any point, the Employment Tribunal Judge (and panel) may interrupt and ask a question or request the witness clarifies something.
Once all the witnesses have given evidence and been questioned, each party can give a closing statement. This should be a brief summary of your claim, relating the evidence to the law which needs to be proven for you to be successful.
You may have seen various Court Room dramas on television. In these dramas, the Judge often sits behind a large raised wooden desk, they and the barristers wear a wig and gown, and it all appears very formal. This is not how an Employment Tribunal Hearing is conducted. One of the Employment Tribunal’s aims is to deal with matters as informally as possible and therefore gowns and wigs are not worn. You should still, however, be smartly dressed to attend the Employment Tribunal.
When you enter the hearing room, there will be two tables facing the Employment Tribunal Judge (and panel). The Claimant usually sits on the right-hand table and the Respondent will sit on the left. You should stand when the panel enter and exit the room, but otherwise you can remain seated.
Unless an order has been made to the contrary, a Final Hearing at the Employment Tribunal is a public event, which means anyone can sit in and watch the hearing.
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Can Help You
If you are currently preparing for a Final Hearing and require assistance, we can help. Please call us on 01522 440512 for an initial free telephone consultation. You may be preparing for a Preliminary Hearing, if so, more information can be found in our blog at https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/what-is-a-preliminary-hearing-in-the-employment-tribunal/
Alternatively, if you would like some further information on Employment Tribunal claims in general, please visit our website for further information at https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/employment-tribunal-claims/
Managing Director, Specialist Employment Solicitor
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