Some employment claims can only be resolved by attending an Employment Tribunal.
Whatever the issue may be, both parties are allowed to bring a legal or moral representative, such as a family member or friend, with them. Employment Tribunal representatives help the parties to reach a resolution in a less stressful and lawful manner.
But there are rules that come with bringing representation. If you neglect them, you could face losing employees, reputational damages, and business losses.
In this guide, we'll look at what an Employment Tribunal representative is, who is eligible to represent a party, and what their roles entail.
What is Employment Tribunal representation?
An Employment Tribunal representative is a person who helps you resolve a workplace dispute.
Some types of representatives can speak on a party's behalf, offer evidence, and even provide legal advice during an Employment Tribunal. For example, a legal representative may help with employment rights compliance. Others may provide support and comfort through personal connections.
Most people don't usually bring any representatives to an Employment Tribunal. That's because this type of court is designed in a way so that they are not required, and a self-represented party would be assisted (to a certain extent) to represent their case.
But this depends on individual preferences and circumstances. For example, you might lack employment law experience or don't know how to identify relevant witnesses who could help you with your case. In this circumstance, a representative can help solidify your case and help determine the overall result.
Who can represent you at an Employment Tribunal?
Different representatives bring different types of support to an Employment Tribunal claim. It depends on what you need for your case. Examples could include a legally qualified solicitor or trade union representative.
Here are examples of people who can stand as Employment Tribunal representatives:
In most claims, a party can represent themselves at an Employment Tribunal hearing. It's a very common strategy used by both the employer and employees.
Employment cases come with a lot of work; so, if you want to represent yourself, think about:
- Preparation: You're fully in charge of preparing your case. You will need to complete the relevant form, collate your evidence, identify potential witnesses, and disclose documents.
- Presentation: You need to present your case during the Tribunal hearing and will be questioned about the details. This includes referring to your bundle of document and witness statements. You will also need to address any allegations of employment law breaches.
- Management: You will manage all aspects of the case from start to end. Like, attending hearings, emailing relevant people, and sending documents.
Another common form of representation are volunteer representatives. Family members or friends provide guidance and comfort to parties. A fellow colleague or someone with HR knowledge can also represent parties.
There are public bodies that can also offer support and guidance during workplace claims. You can contact ACAS or your trade union (if you have one) who can offer free legal advice and discuss the process.
Parties can bring a legally qualified representative, like a lawyer or solicitor, to an Employment Tribunal.
Some law firms offer free legal advice for an employment case, like the Free Representation Unit (FRU). These lawyers provide free legal representation and advice on their own accord. Some law firms also have a 'no win, no fee' rate, which means you'll not have to pay if you lose your case.
It's important to note, legal advisors may represent you when discrimination and unfair dismissal claims are alleged. On a legal basis, discrimination and unfair dismissal is a direct breach of employment law. That's why legal aid is allowed for such cases.
When using legal aid, the costs can add up - leaving you with hefty legal expenses. Some businesses choose to invest in legal insurance policies. These can be used to help pay legal specialists should you need their advice or support.
Is a representative the same as an adviser?
No, the role of an Employment Tribunal representative is different to an adviser.
Legal advisers often work behind the scenes and offer advice on workplace claims. They generally don't attend the hearing as they don't represent you formally. However, legal advisers can offer support and guidance throughout the process both on legal matters and the process of conducting a Tribunal claim.
An Employment Tribunal representative will usually attend the hearing with you. They will speak on your behalf and represent your case to the Tribunal based on what you have told them during the preparations for hearing. Their name will also be on the tribunal claim form, meaning they'll be the first point of contact for you, the Tribunal and the other party.
Bear in mind, some hearings can last a few hours; others, can take days or weeks depending on the complexity of the case. Representatives should be available to attend the full duration of the hearing.
How to manage Employment Tribunal claims
Whatever the grievance is, every employer should know the Employment Tribunal procedures. By doing so, you'll be able to protect your business should you ever face a claim.
Here are ways to manage employment matters in the workplace:
Deal with problems internally
To begin, you should consider dealing with the issue internally.
For example, dealing with any complaints through internal grievance procedures. Reaching resolutions this way minimises business disruptions and strengthens work relations.
But some claims must go through an Employment Tribunal. Be aware of what this will mean for you, as cases can be stressful, complicated, and lengthy.
Complete an Employment Tribunal form
If a party is dissatisfied with the grievance outcome, they may decide to raise an Employment Tribunal claim.
Here, you must complete an Employment Tribunal claim form (ET1) either online or by paper. The form should outline what the issue is, who's involved, and the current situation. It should also include the details of all representatives involved in the case.
Return the form within the specified time limits or the Tribunal could reject it. Raising a claim is free, but once the case starts, costs may accumulate. A winning party can apply to recover costs from the other side, but these are not always awarded.
Follow the Employment Tribunal procedures
Once the Tribunal has accepted the case, both parties will be informed. A copy of the claim form will also be sent to ACAS. Conciliation via ACAS is offered again at this stage, to assist the parties to reach a mutual resolution. If it is resolved then this is recorded in a document prepared by ACAS called a COT3 Agreement, this becomes legally binding once the parties agree the terms of the settlement.
If this is unsuccessful, the Tribunal process will commence. They'll issue a timeframe to process documents, evidence, and witness statements. The timeframe also covers the preparation for a schedule of loss. To reflect, for example, any loss of earnings and employment rights.
Prepare for the hearing
The Tribunal may decide to hold a preliminary hearing before the final meeting.
The Employment Judge will establish the main issues in the case during the preliminary hearing and address any outstanding matters between the parties. This is often done via telephone, but Judges may conduct them in person, where necessary.
After the preliminary hearing, the Tribunal will list the final hearing. The Tribunal claim will either be considered by a Judge sitting alone or a Tribunal panel which includes a Judge and two lay members. One will have knowledge of the employer's background while the other is a trade union representative.
Each side has a fair opportunity to present their side of the case. They'll answer any questions, directed at them or their representative. A full hearing is usually open to the public, so family members or fellow colleagues may attend.
The Tribunal decision
After the hearing has come to a close, the Employment Judge will confirm their final decision or Judgment. Depending upon the issues in the case, the Tribunal’s decision will either be given orally on the day or if the matter is more complex, the panel may need to deliberate, and the decision will be sent to the parties after the hearing.
The Tribunal decision will always be sent to the parties in writing but if it does not contain the full written reasons, then either party can apply for these to the Tribunal. Where necessary, a party can also apply to the Tribunal to reconsider the decision or part of it. In both cases there is a strict time limit of applying within 14 days of the date the Tribunal decision was sent to the parties.
A party can also appeal the Tribunal decision or part of it if the Employment Tribunal has made a mistake in the application of the law. An argument that the Tribunal misunderstood or misapplied the facts is not a ground of appeal. There are strict time limits for presenting an appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, which must be adhered to.
Get expert advice on Employment Tribunal representation with Peninsula
Whatever the tribunal claim may be, it's important to consider having the assistance of a representative. From legal help to moral advice, they can help achieve the best outcome whatever the situation.
Be aware of legal requirements or you could lose employees, face reputational damages, and experience business losses.
Peninsula offers expert advice on employment tribunal representatives. Our HR team offers unlimited 24/7 HR employment advice which is available 365 days a year. We also provide advice from our fully trained advisors who are ready to help.
Want to find out more? Seek advice from one of our HR consultants. For further information, call our telephone number 0800 028 2420