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The ins and outs of employment law

Published 15 October 2018

There are inevitably some employment disputes that cannot be settled without the intervention of a court.

Then can be any number of reasons why the court system is needed to enforce employment law following a fall out between employer and employee.

The matter can become personal and pride gets in the way of common-sense, parties can stubbornly refuse to compromise or both sides can be blinkered and unable to accept that they have done wrong.

An employment tribunal (1) is a specialist court that will deal with most work-related legal claims. Employment law is enforced as a result of one party (the claimant) suing another (the respondent) for compensation or some other remedy as a result of a detriment.

Cases can be heard by a tribunal panel that will include an employment judge and two lay members, one an employee representative and the other an employer representative.

Claims for unpaid wages, holiday pay, redundancy pay, interim relief and unfair dismissal, can be heard by an employment judge sitting alone without any panel members.

There is no longer a fee to access an employment tribunal. In July last year the Supreme Court ruled charging for access to tribunals was unlawful (2).

Most recent figures show the total number of employment tribunal claims lodged with Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) went up by 34 per cent between April to June 2018 (3). As with any legal proceedings there can be significant costs for all parties involved in tribunal cases.

Government-funded body ACAS provide an early conciliation service (4), which was introduced on 6 April, 2015 to provide an opportunity to resolve workplace disputes without the need for a tribunal hearing.

Early conciliation takes place before the start of the tribunal claim. The parties will inform each other of their desired outcome, which may be a financial settlement or reinstatement in cases with a claim for unfair dismissal.

At the conclusion of the early conciliation process, if it is successful a COT3 agreement (5) will be produced which is a legal agreement that both sides have to stick to.

But, if the early conciliation is unsuccessful an ‘early conciliation certificate’ will be issued. It confirms that the early conciliation requirements have been met and that the case can proceed to a tribunal.

Tribunals deal with a wide range of employment-related claims. Contractual disputes can be dealt with by the ordinary civil courts.

For a tribunal hearing a claimant has to submit their claim within three months of the date of termination of employment, or the act (for example, discrimination) complained of. There is a longer time limit for some claims, such as those for a redundancy payment, which has a six month time limit.

Once a case has been fully heard the tribunal will retire to consider its judgement, the reasons for which may be explained at the hearing. There are occasions where a judgement may be reserved, and if this is the case it will also be explained.

In the event of a successful claim the tribunal will normally expect to deal with compensation issues at the hearing.

The findings of the tribunal can be challenged at an employment appeal tribunal (6). This may be on grounds that include the employment tribunal:

·         got the law wrong

·         didn’t apply the correct law

·         didn’t follow the correct procedures and this affected the decision

·         had no evidence to support its decision

·         was unfairly biased towards the other party

This is not necessarily the end of the process as you may be able to appeal to a higher court if you think there was a legal problem with the employment appeal tribunal’s decision.


1.Understanding employment tribunals [Internet]. [cited 2018 Oct 8]. Available from:

2.Employment tribunal fees ruled unlawful. BBC News [Internet]. 2017 Jul 26 [cited 2018 Oct 8]; Available from:

3.Tribunal_and_GRC_statistics_Q1_201819_.pdf [Internet]. [cited 2018 Oct 8]. Available from:

4.Early Conciliation - Workplace Dispute Service | Acas [Internet]. [cited 2018 Oct 8]. Available from:

5.Working Families | What is a settlement agreement? What is a COT3? [Internet]. Working Families. [cited 2018 Oct 8]. Available from:

6. Employment Appeal Tribunal - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2018 Oct 8]. Available from:

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For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611

A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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