An Employment Tribunal is a formal hearing in which both sides will present their arguments for a panel of judges and they will come to a conclusion on the case and give the remedy. This article will give you an insight into what to expect when you go to your employment hearing. If in doubt it is always a good idea to seek the advice of a solicitor, they will be able to walk you through what you need to expect on the day.
Who will be deciding the case?
For an Employment Tribunal, as with any civil matter, there is no jury. There will be a panel of 3 members of the Tribunal who will decide your case. In a 3-person panel there will be an employment law judge, a panel member from the employer’s organisation, and a panel member from the employee’s organisation. Some panels are only made up on 1 employment law judge.
The Tribunal is like a court room only less formal. There will be a bench for the employer’s team to sit, and a bench for the employee’s team to sit. The panel (or judge) will be sat in a row facing the two sides on a raised platform. All evidence is taken under oath and there are rules as to who can speak and when. However, the rules are generally less strict than in the court room and no one will be wearing a gown or wig.
How is the evidence presented?
After the panel has made introductory remarks and introduced themselves, they will decide who goes first. Generally, it depends on the issue as to who will go first. Sometimes both sides will be asked to make an opening statement but this is very rare.
If you are going first you are likely to start by reading your witness statement, although your team will advise you of what you will be doing first. Then the employer’s team will ask you question, this is called cross-examination. This is the most difficult and stressful part of the Tribunal because the other side is trying to prove that you are wrong. It is important that you remain calm, don’t let them intimidate you, and answer the questions as honestly as possible. Try to be succinct in your answers. Often when people provide long complex answers, the point they are trying to make gets lost. If there is more to add save it for later. The Tribunal panel may also ask you questions.
Once the cross-examination has finished your representatives may ask you more questions if they feel there is more to say. If not then your part is over. You will then call your witnesses, if you have any, and they will go through the same process.
Once you have finished your employer will have their chance to speak. The process is the same, they will give their statement, you will cross-examine, they may say some more, witnesses are called. If you are conducting the cross-examination yourself, be careful not to be rude, emotional, or aggressive to your employer as this may damage your position and strong evidence may be overshadowed.
After all the evidence has been heard
The Tribunal will ask if you have anything else to say, this is known as closing remarks. You should prepare what you have to say and offer a short summary of your position. Don’t go on and on too much explaining the law – the Tribunal are experts you need to be careful not to patronise them.
When will you get the verdict?
This depends on the case and if the evidence has run over time. After the closing remarks the panel will tell you what will happen next. Sometimes they will do it on the day, other times they will reconvene at a later date to come to their decision. If they do this you will be informed of their opinion in writing. If damages are awarded there will be a damages hearing at a later date.