How to Prepare for Employment Tribunals
Written by Geoff Newman on 11/08/2010
As the number of employment tribunal claims rise every year, the potential for tribunals and the need to prepare for them is increasing. The process can be daunting, but there are a few practical tips:
1....use the right forms and submit them online, as tribunals prefer email.
2....keep an eye out for hidden claims that may be concealed amidst words, especially issues of discrimination.
3....keep the response forms to the claimant, ET3s, short, and hold onto evidence for witness statements.
4....focus on what you want to prove.
5....keep track of all important dates and deadlines, such as when documents have to be disclosed.
6....pull together documents as soon as claims are received. Remember that a number of people may have the paperwork you require.
7....make an index of the key documents in the bundle for the tribunal, which will help later when you have to agree on a tribunal bundle with the other side.
8....encourage managers to keep a daybook where they can make brief notes on informal meetings every day.
9....think about who will make a good witness at a tribunal. Ask a senior manager to hear an appeal.
10....prepare by watching a tribunal hearing if you are to be called as a witness. Also send your managers for first-hand experience and settling nerves.
11....give witnesses a copy of the tribunal bundle and let them have an input.
12....ensure your witnesses know the contents of their documents before the hearing, and that they can answer questions like ‘when did you prepare the document?’ and ‘what did you say at the meeting?’.
13....ensure that witness statements are good, but also in the witness’s own words. Make witnesses practice reading their statements aloud until they are comfortable with them.
14....give short, clear, confident answers, and address them to the judge. Give the tribunal time to write down your answers and watch the judge’s pen.
15....think clearly about your responses, and say if you need to look at the documents to refresh your memory.
1....rely on the ticked boxes. Seemingly straightforward claims that the company thought would be easy to defend may turn into something far more complex.
2....go off topic when drafting the ET3; stick to the facts.
3....include pay rise letters unless the claim relates to pay rises, and don’t include the whole company handbook, just the relevant policies.
4....delete or throw away documents relating to employees once they have been dismissed, they may still be needed.
5....offer statements from people who cannot or will not give evidence. Statements won’t be considered by tribunals unless the witness is present for cross-examination.
6....allow the style of your solicitor to dictate witnesses’ statements.
7....have emotional or opinionated statements; keep to the facts.
8....ignore the documents while addressing the tribunal, but constantly refer to them during the statement when appropriate. Tribunals will only read the documents that you point out to them.
9....expect the tribunal to understand your business and its vocabulary. Explain your terms.
10....consider where the questions you’re asked might be taking you, just tell the truth.
11....be forced to give evidence for a document you have not seen or do not remember. Ask for 5 minutes to read the document if you need to.
12....offer more information than is required.
13....mumble or mutter, as the tribunal won’t be convinced by you.