A dreaded ET1 Claim Form has landed on your desk. First things first, don’t panic! All employers deal with tribunal claims, having to defend one doesn’t make you a terrible employer.
So, it’s time to get your response together. An employers response to a tribunal claim is submitted using an ET3 form. If you are using an external supplier to guide you through the process, make sure that you also allocate a main point of contact within your business who will take responsibility for any correspondence.
Oh, and diarise the ET3 deadline! The rules on time limits are strictly applied. You’ll find this deadline confirmed usually within correspondence sent to you by the employment tribunal along with the ET1.
Deadlines & Submission
Firstly, a note on deadlines…
Check whether the employee has brought his/her claim on time. If you believe the employee is out of time – state it in your ET3.
Your ET3 must be submitted to the employment tribunal within 28 days of the date the claim was sent. If you submit this after the deadline, the tribunal may well reject your response. In the real world of huge offices, with multiple pigeon holes and places for an important letter to get lost – this can happen. If it does, then just be aware that as the respondent you may then only be able to participate in the hearing to the extent permitted by the Judge.
We know what you’re thinking ‘28 days? Easy!’. Although the time-frame may seem generous, putting together a strong response to an employment tribunal claim can take its time, especially with complex claims which will require communication with several of your colleagues around the business. Be sure to tell your employment law advisor quickly.
What should go in to an ET3 response?
Your response is the grounds on which the claim is resisted. It must be clear, accurate, an honest portrayal of what happened and should state explicitly whether the claim is resisted in full or in part.
The response needs to focus on the specific allegations set out in the ET1 and on any legal issues involved. Check what these claims are, and then check them again. There may be further allegations embedded which aren’t immediately obvious.
A few other essentials for the ET3: the correct name of the respondent, the claimant’s job title; hours of work; details of their pay and any other relevant benefits.
Is it worth the fight?
As the employer you should also carry out a careful assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the claimant’s case and of your defence in order to decide whether the claim is worth defending. In many cases, settlement agreements can be a useful tool in solving a dispute quickly and with certainty and finality.
Remember to consider that it can be beneficial to pay more to an outgoing employee than their claim might be worth, particularly if the claimant may cause significant disruption.
We always get asked one question from our clients when considering a settlement agreement – how much? There is no absolute science behind calculating the amount to pay out , but this article might help you towards making that decision.
So, you’re ready to submit…you can use the online submission tool or submit your ET3 by returning the paper form. Either way, it’s always good practice to work in partnership with your employment law advisor throughout the whole process to ensure you build the strongest response to a tribunal claim and above all ensure it is submitted on time!
If you have a tribunal claim looming, and you and/or your managers aren’t sure what to expect, consider attending a Mock Employment Tribunal event, they are a great learning (and life!) experience.