How to handle an Employment Tribunal Hearing

with a real example for discussion

An Employment Tribunal (ET) is the last resort, when employer and employee disagree and the usual management procedures, meetings, disciplinary hearings, negotiations etc (if any of these can be exercised) have failed.

Note that ACAS is very useful - it is a quasi governmental organisation with a mine of information and free personal advice for UK employees.

The ET itself has a modern website Employment Tribunals and almost all the paperwork can be done over the Internet or by post.

For those who end up in an ET, there are things you need to know in order to present your case effectively. The days of the layman are past, the ET does not have the time to help you much.

The hearing takes place in an informal setting - the employer and employee bring a trial bundle and witnesses to the hearing, and everything is decided according to what is said at the hearing.

The trial bundle is a binder containing all the papers relating to the hearing. So it contains everything that both sides want to refer to; you can only add papers with the agreement of the ET. There are 5 copies: one for the employer, one for the employee, and one each for the tribunal members.

The trial bundle is sequentially numbered: the first page is Page 1 and it goes on from there. There are no chapters or sections, you can only refer to page numbers.

As can be seen from the example given, it is important to raise all the issues in your case verbally at the hearing otherwise the ET cannot consider them. It is unwise to rely on the ET to read the trial bundle in advance, or to fill in the blanks in your arguments, or to make deductions from your evidence. Everything has to be spelled out.

Where there is a difference of opinion, you must cross-examine the witnesses and explain to the ET how to decide who has the strongest evidence.

The catch here is that you only get one chance to cross-examine each witness, and the ET decides in which order the witnesses appear. So a crucial witness will appear before, or after, you have presented your case. You need to be prepared to press home your own arguments in detail, and cross-examine any contradictions to death, whenever they appear.

If you do not question statements made by a witness, the ET can safely assume the statements are true, stating in the judgement that they were 'not challenged'.

The following case study illustrates these points.

DISCLAIMER: this is all personal opinion for your entertainment and/or information, for which we take no responsibility, there are no guarantees, you are responsible for your own actions, consult your own lawyer before making any decisions or drawing any conclusions, your mileage may vary, etc.

Comments are welcome to

Employment Tribunal public hearing

Bury St Edmunds on Friday 1 December 2006

Mr R S Ross-Langley v ANT Software Ltd

Witness Statements

Judgement of the Employment Tribunal

Re-advertising a redundant position

A reasonable interval should elapse before the redundant position is re-advertised.