By: Simon B
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Taking a case against your boss
You may want to take a case against your employer for many reasons. Unfair dismissal is just one of them, but it’s one of the most common. Others include:
- Not getting equal pay
- Not being paid at least the national minimum wage
- Breaches of contract
- Wrongful dismissal
- Not being given written reasons for dismissal
- Dismissal for requesting statutory rights or taking industrial action
- Unfair selection for redundancy Long hours or lack of holiday pay
- Unfair treatment as a part-time worker
- Not being given maternity, paternity, adoption, and parental leave or leave for family emergencies
- Requests for flexible working haven’t been considered
- Not being given Written Statement of Particulars of Employment
- Not being allowed to bring a union representative or colleague to disciplinary or grievance hearings in the workplace
- Being refused time off for trade union activities or as a pension fund trustee
- Being sacked or victimized for whistleblowing – reporting illegal or potentially fraudulent practices in the workplace.
An employment tribunal handles most claims against an employer. A panel of three people usually makes tribunal decisions. The tribunal chairperson will be an experienced lawyer.
The tribunals were set up to allow employees and employers to represent themselves, but over time they’ve become very legalistic, and employers usually pay for representation by a solicitor. That makes it all the more difficult for an employee to win a case without representation. If you belong to a union, talk to the union official before starting your claim. If you don’t belong to a union, your local CAB can help you. Many have advisers who specialise in employment tribunal cases.
Get advice right at the start so that you comply with the appeal and grievance procedures and don’t leave any vital information out when you fill in the forms to start the process. In most cases, you need to start your claim within three months of the event that led to it.
You start the claim process by filling in form ET1. A copy of this form is sent to the employer for a response within 28 days. When the tribunal gets the reply, it sends a copy to you and to the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS), which will offer to conciliate between you and your employer. Before the tribunal hearing, you and your employer can agree to a settlement, or you can withdraw your claim.
If the case is fairly straightforward, you may be given a date for a hearing straightaway. If it’s more complicated, you may go through several stages before getting to the full hearing, including:
- Case management discussion: Often a conference call with the tribunal chairperson to discuss what issue the tribunal has to decide or to discuss the procedure.
- Prehearing review: Held to make sure that you have a reasonable chance of making your case to the full hearing. At this point, the tribunal may decide that you have no reasonable prospect of winning or that your case is vexation. You may be ordered to pay a deposit to the tribunal of up to £500 before you can go ahead to a full hearing.
- Preliminary hearing: Held by the tribunal chairperson to see whether you’re able to bring your claim. For example, the tribunal may look at whether you’re an ‘employee,’ have enough service to claim, or whether the claim has been made in time.
The case may be settled at any of these stages, but if not, then a full hearing will hear all the evidence and witnesses from both sides and make a decision. You may get a judgement orally at the hearing, but you’ll always get details of the judgement by post. With that judgement, you get details of how to appeal at an employment appeal tribunal.
Although the process is supposed to be less formal than a court, it can be fairly daunting, and you certainly have more chance of winning if you have someone with you who knows how the system works and can guide you through. Don’t go it alone if you can avoid it.