In the year since the abolition of employment tribunal fees, the number of claims has risen significantly, and as a result some employers may find themselves becoming accustomed to the ‘thud’ of an ET1 form on their desk.
An ET1 form is not something to be taken lightly and acting quickly can benefit an employer in the long run and improve the prospects of their case.
As soon as an ET1 form arrives, take these actions to hit the ground running:
1. Tell your employment law advisor about the ET1 – quickly!
Employers have 28 days to respond to an ET1 form. Remember, this 28-day clock starts ticking from the day that the form is sent, not the day that the letter is opened.
Frustratingly, ET1 forms have a habit of not being instantly recognisable or addressed to who you want them to be addressed to, so its good practice to ensure your support staff and managers know where an ET1 could arrive and how to recognise one.
If an ET1 form arrives, open it, diarise the ET3 response deadline, and immediately forward the form to your employment law specialists. At this stage it’s also a good idea for HR to speak to the key people involved with the allegation to let them know that a claim has been filed, as their input is likely to be required.
2. Check the Claimant has followed all the rules
Employees usually have a 3-month time limit to bring their claim. It is good practice to double check that the claim was filed within this limitation period, and if you suspect its outside of this limit, let your employment law team know.
Employees filing an employment tribunal claim are also required to go through the early conciliation process. This is a requirement introduced by ACAS to try to solve disputes quickly and outside of the court rooms. Its compulsory, so the employee will have an early conciliation certificate if they have complied. Send this on to your employment law specialist too. This will also help with checking time limits as they are extended by the ACAS early conciliation process.
3. Give your managers chance to remember what happened
The employment tribunal process can be slow, and the actual hearing can quite easily take place months or even years after the Claimant left the business. With this in mind, it’s important to give your managers and any other colleagues who are involved with the claim the best possible chance of remembering what happened.
A tip we always use with our clients is to get the witnesses to write down what they can remember as soon as the claim comes in. Don’t worry, these notes do not have to be perfect and are not used as a final witness statement, but act as a tool to capture everything they remember and can prove invaluable when the time comes to write the witness statements.
4. If you have a hearing date, get in the diaries
Put the date of the hearing in the diaries of HR, witnesses and anyone else that is closely linked to the case. Tribunals are reluctant to reschedule hearings and definitely will not do so on the basis that you forgot to tell a witness about it!
You may also receive a date for a preliminary hearing. If you have, here’s what to expect.
5. Start pulling together the relevant documents for disclosure
If the claim is a disciplinary case, employers will need to send a copy of their disciplinary policy, any investigation documents, the outcome letter, appeal outcome and the accompanying notes to their employment law team as a starter for ten.
If the case is a claim for constructive dismissal following a grievance, employers will need to collate the grievance policy, grievance letter, meeting notes, outcome letter and appeal documents.
6. Don’t panic!
Your employment law specialist will be by your side all the way through the process and don’t worry, all employers deal with tribunal claims – having to defend a claim doesn’t make you a terrible employer.
If you have received a tribunal claim, try using this checklist – it’s built for HR teams to ensure they don’t miss any important stages of the process.
Or, check out our Mock Employment Tribunal events which aim to demystify the employment tribunal process. They are a great first-hand experience of the process, the issues that could arise during a case and how the ET might deal with them.