Preparing for an Employment Tribunal Hearing

Once you have submitted your claim form - the ET1 - your ex-employer (the respondent), has 28 days to submit their response to your claim. Your claim form will be sent to the respondents and you as the claimant, will receive a copy of the form returned by the respondent. There will then be an extended period of time during which you will need to prepare your case gather all the documents that you require, seek any documents from the other side, and exchange those documents.

It is important that you prepare all the documents on which you wish to rely before the hearing commences. The papers that are used in the tribunal hearing itself are referred to as "the bundle", and preparing this bundle, numbering the pages and sorting out a chronology can be extremely time-consuming and relatively stressful.

You should agree with the other side who will physically prepare the bundle and agree what goes in to it. It is not a good idea when attending a hearing, to turn up with a bundle that is not agreed and/or to try to introduce new papers at that late stage; no matter how important they may be to your case. At best it will cause delay to the start - which may transmit to costs being awarded against you later - or you may not be able to use the document at all which could seriously damage your prospects of success.

It may be that there will be a preliminary stage before the full hearing takes place called a pre-hearing review (PHR), and this is normally heard by a judge sitting alone. The purpose of the PHR is to decide whether or not the claim that you have submitted, or the response completed by the respondent should be thrown out. It can deal with questions such as whether or not you are entitled to bring the claim at all and it can decide, if either side's case is weak, whether any deposit should be paid into the court and if so how much that should be. It is important to attend this stage if one is arranged as it can prove critical to the way you will able to conduct your case.

A Case Management Discussion (CMD) is normally held to clarify the issues, decide what orders should be made such as disclosure of documents, attendance of witnesses etc, and the date time and approximate length of the full hearing. CMD's will always be held by a judge sitting alone and can be dealt with by a review of the papers. However, if you are involved as a party to the proceedings you or your representative should attend if invited.

Getting your head round the process, particularly if you are unrepresented, can be difficult; you have to decide what papers you need, if you want to call any witnesses, write your statement and think about how you are going to cross-examine the witnesses called by the other side.

The case will be listed for the requisite number of days, and dates will be notified to both parties. It is important to notify the employment tribunal, as early as possible, if you are unavailable on certain dates, to avoid having to ask for a postponement. There will normally be orders from the tribunal about the disclosure of documents the preparation and exchange of witness statements and the times by which they should be completed. As a minimum you will need to bring a total of six prepared bundles; one for each side, one for the witness table and three for the tribunal members.

The hearing itself is set up to decide whether the claim will succeed or fail and if it succeeds what remedy or compensation should be paid. The full hearing will usually be heard by a judge sitting with two lay members one from each side of industry. This means that they will generally be one employer and one employee appointed person however this does not mean that they will side with one or the other; they are all neutral and they are all appointed based on their industrial experience and understanding of how workplaces operate.

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Steve Ferns is the owner of Tacticks and has held senior management and board level posts in both UK listed companies and local government over the past 20 years specialising in turnaround situations. He has extensive experience in people management and advises companies and individuals on UK employment law, best employment practice and HR. He has been ` lay member of the Employment Tribunals for over 17 years and is on the County Court panel of lay assessors in discrimination cases specialising in sexual orientation discrimination. He currently serves on the management board of two charities as well as carrying out consultancy work. His website address is;