If an employee has an issue at work, they can make a claim to an employment tribunal (ET). If this is the case, you will receive a notification of this in the mail. You can then send in your defence.

If you want to, then you’ll need to respond with an ET3 form. But what is this and how do you go about filling it out correctly? In this guide, we’ll take you through all the need-to-know details.

What is an ET3 form?

The process starts when an employee completes an ET1 form and sends it to the tribunal. You don’t have to respond to an employment tribunal. But remember, if you don’t there’s a judgement in the favour of the employee. This is a “default judgement”—so it’s really in your interest to take the time to respond.

The ET3 form is an essential part of the tribunals claim process. On this, it’s your chance to respond against the complaint made and summarise your version of events.

How to fill in an ET3

[Click here to download your ET3 Tribunal Response form]

Above is the ET3 response form. You’ll usually get one with the ET1 from the tribunal, too.

While completing it is fairly self-explanatory, there are a few main points to keep in mind. This includes essential details such as your case number.

You will also have your chance to challenge what the claimant has said about you. This includes whether you agree with their assessment of the issue. It’s part six of the ET3 form where you can do this. Tick the “Yes” box if you wish to defend the claim. You can then write your defence in the provided section. Or attach a separate document to the form.

Once your form is complete, you send it to the relevant employment tribunal address. Once it’s received, you can expect a response within five days. The tribunal will then let you know the next steps of the claim.

Employment tribunal claim – response time limit

Do note, there’s also an employment tribunal claim time limit for your ET response. Once you’re aware of the employment tribunal, you have 28 days in which to respond via post, fax, through email or another online form.

Remember, the 28 days starts from the date the claim arrives. Even if you’re not aware of the employment tribunal, you don’t get a longer time period to respond. This highlights the importance of dealing with the matter quickly.

Employment tribunal response tips

Responding to an employment tribunal claim may upset you. For example, an employee may have made disparaging remarks you don’t agree with.

As a business owner, you may feel you’ve done nothing wrong. As such, here are a few tips to keep in mind to limit the stress of the situation, as well as to remain compliant, and complete the process correctly.

  1. Respond as soon as possible. Don’t delay your response. To help here, establish a procedure for dealing with a claim. So if one comes through in future, you can forward it to the relevant employee to handle the situation.
  2. Consider your situation. Do you have a realistic chance of success? For any staff who have worked with the claimant, get them involved to provide feedback and evidence.
  3. Make your focus the claimant. In your tribunal response, don’t include irrelevant information. Make your focus about the claimant’s allegations.
  4. Tell the truth. With your feedback, rely on evidence—pay particular attention to all the details to ensure accuracy.
  5. Submit the ET3 form on time. Don’t leave the form until the last minute. You have 28 days, so make a start as soon as possible to put together your best defence.

What if the employee disagrees?

When you write your ET3 form response, your employee may disagree with some of the points you raise. If they confront you about this, don’t involve yourself as it could negatively affect your position.

Instead, tell them the employment tribunal hearing is where they can challenge what you’ve written. At this stage, you could re-read their ET1 form to see how it corresponds with your response. This may provide some insights into some of the issues they may raise during the hearing.

Do keep in mind, though, your employee may request further details from you. This rule is “disclosure. If defending the case, you have to provide documents that are in your control that either support your case, or support the claimant’s case. You’ll get a deadline for this and you have to meet it. Then, if any further documents are found, you’ll have to disclose these to the claimant.

If the employee thinks you’ve missed some documents out, they can ask you to search for specific documents or apply for a “specific disclosure order”. This is an instruction from the tribunal, who’ll update you both on what action to follow next. An employee can only ask for details that are relevant to the hearing.

The claimant will also have to disclose the documents they’re relying on in their case. You can request access to these documents from the claimant. The tribunal can also order them to provide the information you’ve requested.

In both instances, it’s possible to refuse the request for documents. This is so long as you think it isn’t relevant to the case. At this point, the tribunal will decide what to do. You’ll have to respond to any orders or directions they issue with their decision—you’ll have a set amount of time to complete these instructions.

If you’re struggling to complete them, though, you can write to the tribunal explaining your situation. This can grant you more time. Also, a delay is a possibility, if both parties informally agree to it.

But it’s important to follow the timeline as you may receive a fine if you’re not open about any struggles you’re having.

Need more help?

Employment tribunal response forms are stressful to deal with. You can benefit from expert advice on completing yours. We offer expert employment tribunal services. You can also get in touch and we’ll talk you through the process step by step: 0800 028 2420.