Employment Tribunals are inferior courts in Great Britain which have statutory jurisdiction to hear many kinds of disputes between employers and employees. The most common disputes being concerned with unfair dismissal and discrimination.
Employment Tribunals were created as Industrial Tribunals by the Industrial Training Act 1964. Their name was changed to "Employment Tribunals" from 1st August 1998. (Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998).
Employment Tribunals are constituted and operate according to statutory rules issued by Parliament. The rules currently in operation are:-
- • The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations SI 2351/2004
- • The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2005 SI 1865/2005
These rules set out the tribunals' main objectives and procedures, and matters such as time limits for making a claim, and dealing with requests for reviews and appeals.
The time limit for making a claim is typically 3 months from the date of the act complained of, but the limit can be extended to six months where an employee complains first to the employer, even after employment has been terminated. NB The rules concerning time limits are complex. If you have a potential claim you are urged to seek advice specific to your circumstances.
Claims are normally initiated by individuals, and normally responded to by employers (or former employers) or trade unions. Thus the terms "claimant" and "respondent" are used to describe the parties involved in tribunal proceedings. Normally each party pays its own costs. Tribunals will order one party to pay the other party's costs in exceptional circumstances, where the paying party has behaved unreasonably or vexatiously.
Cases are usually heard by a panel of three people – a legally qualified chairperson, and two ‘lay members’. The lay members use their employment experience in judging the facts. One of the lay members should have experience from the employer's side of disputes and the other from the employee's. Sometimes the chairperson sits on their own (for example, to hear any legal arguments).
A party may apply to the tribunal requesting a review of its own decision. A tribunal may also review its decision of its own motion. Decisions can be reviewed where an error is relatively minor, eg a clerical error.
Where a party believes the tribunal has misapplied the law or acted perversely, the review process is inappropriate and the party must appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Parties are expected to comply with strictly enforced time limits when applying for a Review or Appeal.
The Department of Constitutional Affairs operates the Employment Tribunals Service, which is a branch of the UK's Tribunals Service. Types of disputes commonly heard by Employment Tribunals include claims connected with unfair dismissal, redundancy payments and discrimination. The Employment Tribunal Service maintains a list of claims in which tribunals have jurisdiction.
The Employment Tribunals Service published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2005-06 in July 2006 , which included these key points:
- • In 05/06, there were 115,039 claims accepted, compared with 86,181 in 04/05 and 115,042 in 03/04.
- • 18% of claims were successful at a full hearing in 05/06; the remainder were either settled, withdrawn, unsuccessful or otherwise disposed of.
- • The median award for unfair dismissal was £4.228; the average award was £8,679.
- • The median award for discrimination was between £5,546 and £9,021 (depending on the type of discrimination).
- • Costs were awarded against claimants in 148 cases, and against respondents in 432 cases. The median costs award was £1,136.
- • 867 Employment Tribunal decisions were appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Of those, 191 were withdrawn, 378 were dismissed and the remaining 298 appeals were allowed.
- The Employment Tribunals home page, with access to full rules, statistics, jurisdiction lists and procedures, plus online application and response forms
- Disclaw Publishing has a comprehensive and free to use online database concerning UK Employment Law.