Creating a harmonious atmosphere for your employees is very important, and ensuring a happy working environment is likely to keep staff retention levels high. However, there are always likely to be situations where a member of staff isn’t happy with something, whether that is the way they believe they have been treated over a certain issue, if they have been let go following a disciplinary or due to redundancy, or maybe something else altogether.

Whatever the circumstances for your unhappy employee, employment tribunals are something that business owners and managers want to avoid. However, there will be the inevitable occasion where a determined member of staff will want to take action for something that has upset them. In these situations it is important to know how to handle it in the best interests of your business.

Responding to a claim

If an employee decides that they are going to take their dispute to a tribunal then the claim against your company will be sent to you officially from the Employment Tribunals Service.  This will come in a hard-copy format for your records.

When you have considered the claim you can decide whether to issue a response. This can be made on the paper copy that has been sent to you, or electronically on their website. Your response needs to be completed in full, explaining the exact reasons why you are disputing the claim.

Time to respond

The time in which you have to do this is strict; generally it is 28 days after the date you receive the official claim form from the Employment Tribunals Service. A date is likely to be mentioned on this by which you must return your response. An extension to this period may be requested in writing though must detail the reasons why it is required.

Any late or non-responses to the claim are likely to end up in the employment tribunal issuing a default judgement against your company, or carrying on with the hearing without you present. Either way, it’s likely that you will end up paying out a large sum in compensation to the employee so it is vital that you take the time to respond. It is also important that the claim is looked at by someone who understands the ins and outs of employment law, such as a solicitor or other legal professional.

Before and during the hearing

Depending on the situation, you may be contacted by an employment judge to hold a case-management discussion to clarify certain legal issues and to agree on the documents to use at the hearing. You will need to provide the claimant with any documentation they request as well as copies of witness statements. They must also do the same for you. This ensures full transparency when the claim is heard in court.

It’s highly recommended that you attend the hearing, as well as the witnesses that you have asked to give statements. This will be heard by a panel of three, including the Employment Judge and should happen no later than 26 weeks after the initial claim being submitted.

Potential outcomes

If you are successful against the claimant then it will be dismissed and you will receive a copy of the judgement stating this. It’s unlikely that you will be eligible to claim legal costs back unless it’s deemed that the claimant acted unreasonably towards you.

If the claimant is successful then you may be ordered to reinstate their original position, provide a job for them elsewhere within the business (re-engagement) or to give them compensation against their loss of earnings, and potentially for hurt feelings.

If you are facing a workplace disagreement then contact QualitySolicitors for advice. Our expert lawyers will be happy to explain the process and relevant costs in further detail with you.

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Legal wigs by Oxfordian Kissuth

Image by Oxfordian Kissuth (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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