If you have a problem at work which cannot be resolved through an internal grievance process, you may have to take legal action. This can result in taking your claim to an employment tribunal
What is an employment tribunal?
An employment tribunal is essentially a less formal style of court that specialises in dealing with employment law issues. If you take legal action against your employer and negotiations fail to resolve the issue, ultimately you may have to take your case to be heard by an employment tribunal. This is generally made up of a legally qualified employment judge and two non-legal members.
I've got a problem at work. Can I go to an employment tribunal?
In general, you should only consider going to an employment tribunal as a last resort. The vast majority of workplace problems are sorted out informally. So first talk to your line manager or HR department to see if they can help. If that doesn't work, follow the formal grievance procedure (eg writing an official letter of grievance). You can also discuss your concerns with a trade union representative or a specialist employment lawyer.
If you have tried everything and still cannot resolve the problem at work, it may be possible to take your claim to an employment tribunal. Examples of common employment tribunal claims include those relating to:
- unfair dismissal (ie where your employer dismissed you without a proper reason or if they failed to follow the correct disciplinary procedure);
- discrimination (eg if you are treated unfairly because of your race, gender, religion, age, or sexual orientation etc);
- breach of contract (eg if your employer has not paid you properly);
- working hours and holidays (eg if you were not allowed to take your statutory holiday entitlement or given proper rest breaks).
How do I raise a claim with an employment tribunal?
Before you make an employment tribunal claim, you will first have to lodge the claim with the Acas early conciliation service. This free service may be able to help you and your employer reach a solution without the cost and stress going to a tribunal - but you do not have to actually use it. Acas will not advise you of your rights or provide the same tactics or expertise as an employment lawyer.
If you do not use the service or it does not solve the problem, you can then make a claim to an employment tribunal online.
What are the time limits for taking a claim to an employment tribunal?
If you are making an unfair dismissal claim, you will normally have to lodge the claim with Acas within three months of the date your employment was terminated, counting that day as 'Day 1'. Similarly, if your claim relates to discrimination or an unlawful deduction of wages, you will have to lodge the claim with Acas within three months of the last act of discrimination or the last day the unlawful deduction was made. Different time limits apply for other types of cases, but they are less common.
The time limit for making a claim is automatically 'paused' after it has been lodged with the Acas early conciliation service until the process has completed.
Are there any fees for going to an employment tribunal?
No. From 26 July 2017 you no longer pay a fee to make a claim to the Employment Tribunal or the Employment Appeals Tribunal. If you paid a fee to the Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeals Tribunal between 29 July 2013 and 26 July 2017, you can claim a refund, either online, by email or post. Access online refund claim forms and more information on the GOV.UK website.