Even with the introduction of employment tribunal fees, early conciliation and the increasing awareness of employment law within businesses, employees can still bring unexpected tribunal claims. Whilst many employers are unaware of the tribunal process, and feel daunted by this event, here are a few tips to ensure a correct response is lodged:
Be aware of time
Receiving an unexpected tribunal claim form, the ET1, can be scary and many employers may simply wish to put the form to one side and deal with it later. However, there are set timelines in place and an employer’s response to the claim, the ET3, must arrive at the tribunal within 28 days of the date which the ET1 was sent out. This is a narrow deadline and is strongly enforced by the tribunal. There are a number of ways to complete and submit the ET3, including online or returning a paper form, but this will have to be sent in enough time for it to be received within the deadline. You can apply to extend the deadline, but this will be granted at the employment judge’s discretion.
Assess the claim
With the introduction of early conciliation, most employers will be aware of an impending tribunal claim and, if they agreed to take part in conciliation, they are likely to have an idea of the details of the claimant’s case. When the claim form is received, you should carry out an assessment of how strong the case is and whether it will be worth fighting the claim or not. This could involve an assessment of the claim, the evidence the claimant has, any defence you could put forwards and the costs involved in defending the claim. Even though you may not want the employee to feel they have won, if the claim involves, for example, three directors and could last up to 5 days at tribunal, the costs of attending and defending could outweigh the costs of a settlement.
Respond to the detail of the claim
If without legal advice, a response to the claims made by the employee should be focused on the specified allegations and the legal issues involved. Where the case is straightforward, i.e. a simple wages claim, the ET3 response could constitute the only defence heard by the tribunal so the response should be as detailed as possible. If the claim will require a full hearing, then the ET3 should correspond with any evidence the defence will rely on and ensure that statements within are supported by evidence.
For further advice on this issue contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.