Preparing an employment tribunal case
When the tribunal accepts your claim, it will send you a letter to confirm this together with a booklet which tells you what the next steps are. The letter will include the case number and the address to which you should send correspondence.
When you have that letter, it’s important to start preparing your case.
If you have a representative, they'll do most of the preparation. Sometimes they'll ask you to do certain things or provide information. It's important you follow their instructions.
Make sure you've given all the information you have to your representative. Don’t hold anything back. If you remember something later, make sure you tell your representative about it as soon as you can.
If you don’t have a representative and there's something you're not clear about, you can email the tribunal dealing with your case. Tell them your case reference number when you contact them.
If you need to find the tribunal’s contact details or your case reference number, check the letters they’ve sent you.
The tribunal can’t give you legal advice but they can explain how the tribunal system works.
When you get your employer's response
Your employer’s response will be on a form called an ‘ET3’. The ET3 is a summary of their response to your claim.
There might be things your employer says that you strongly disagree with, or that make you angry. Don't write any comments on the ET3 - it might need to be photocopied and shown to the tribunal. If you have any comments, write them on a separate sheet.
Don’t write to your employer or the tribunal about what’s in the ET3. Getting involved in arguments with your employer at this stage won’t help and might damage your case or negotiating position. Keep arguments about your case and what your employer says for discussions about a possible settlement or the tribunal hearing.
Negotiating a settlement
After the employment tribunal has sent a copy of your claim and your employer’s response to Acas, an Acas conciliator will contact you both to try to settle your claim. You’ll be told your conciliator’s name and how to contact them. You can contact them at any time up to the hearing.
You can find out more about settling a claim.
If your employer doesn’t respond
Your employer should reply within 28 days of getting the claim from the tribunal. There’s often a delay while the tribunal passes documents between you and your employer. Keep a note of that deadline and contact the tribunal if you’ve not had a response a couple of weeks after that.
If your employer doesn’t reply to your claim in the time limit, a tribunal can decide your case without a hearing.
Check what the tribunal will do to manage your case
When the tribunal has your claim form (the ET1) and your employer’s ET3, it will send them to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to try to resolve the case without a hearing. The tribunal might also:
send you and your employer a document called a ‘case management order’ - this tells you what you need to do to help the case progress
set a date for the hearing
The tribunal might hold a hearing to decide on how to manage the case or to work out exactly what the issues are. This is called a ‘preliminary hearing’. It might take place over the telephone, by video call or in person. You can find out more about preliminary hearings.
Case management orders
A case management order tells you or your employer what you need to do and when. The tribunal might also call it a ‘direction’.
Some tribunals will issue standard directions telling you and your employer to give each other certain information and documents within a time limit. For example, it might tell you to:
create a schedule of loss - you can check how to create a schedule of loss
send a list of all the documents that are relevant to the case
exchange documents with your employer
gather together the documents that will be used at the hearing - this is called preparing the ‘bundle’
You can ask the tribunal to strike out all or part of your employer’s response if they don’t comply with the directions and orders without a good reason. Your employer can also ask the tribunal to strike out all or part of your claim if you don’t comply.
You should always take these orders seriously and do what's asked within the time limit. If there's a reason why you can’t do this, write to the tribunal as soon as you can to explain why. If you don't follow an order without a very good reason, you might have to pay your employer’s legal costs, or even have your case dismissed.
Getting evidence from your employer
You might already have got some evidence - for example:
anything you've written down about what's happened
your contract, if you've got one, and any other documents about your employment like pay slips or salary details
anything else related to your employment tribunal case
You might also have letters, emails or mobile phone texts about the situation from your employer or work colleagues - for example, grievance or dismissal letters.
When you look at the ET3 form, make a note in a separate document of how you disagree with your employer. Then work out what evidence you'll need to challenge what they’ve said - like emails from colleagues or your diary of what happened.
You might find you need more information or explanation to understand what your employer has said. You might also want to see certain documents.
You should write to the employer or their representative and ask them to give you all the documents relevant to your case which you don’t have. For example, if your employer refers to a complaint about you which you’ve never seen, you can ask for a copy of that. This is called asking for ‘disclosure’.
Check if the tribunal set a deadline for disclosure. If it didn’t, tell your employer when you want the documents - for example, within14 days.
If your employer won't give you all the documents you've asked for, or hasn’t done so by the deadline, you can ask the tribunal for an order. This is an instruction from the tribunal to your employer to give you what you're asking for.
You can ask for an order by writing to the tribunal, and explaining why you think the documents are important.
The tribunal normally won't make an order if they think you're asking for too much, or your questions aren't relevant to the case. Remember, you can only ask for evidence to support your case.
If your employer asks you for evidence
Your employer can also ask you for information and documents. You should provide all information and documents relevant to the case.
You should try to agree with your employer which documents you need to send them. If they’re asking for documents which you don’t think are relevant, tell them why you don’t think those documents are relevant.
If the documents contain personal information you don’t want your employer to see, ask them if you can only send them the relevant parts. For example, your employer might ask for your medical records. You can suggest that you:
only send the last year of your medical records
cross out parts of the records that aren’t relevant to the case
If you can’t agree with your employer, you should tell the tribunal and itwill decide what to do. If they think the information is relevant, you'll have to give it to your employer or you might not be able to continue with your case.
You might find it helpful to get advice on what documents you can ask for, the procedure, or responding to a request from your employer. You can get advice from your adviser or representative if you have one or check for other organisations that may be able to help you.
Producing a bundle
A bundle is the file of documents that the tribunal will need to look at during the hearing. These documents are the evidence in your case. The bundle should contain all the documents that are important to your case, and that you or your employer want to refer to at the hearing.
Usually your employer will produce the bundle. If you have a preliminary hearing, you might want to ask for an order for your employer to produce the bundle if the tribunal hasn’t already ordered it. You can find out more about preliminary hearings.
You should try to agree documents with your employer if you can. If you can’t agree what should be included in the bundle, you can ask the tribunal to decide.
If you need to put together the bundle
When you’ve got all the documents in order, you need to number the pages, starting with the first page of the claim form.
Make an index and put it at the start of the bundle.
For each document, the index should say:
say what it is - for example ‘claim form’
the date it was made - if it doesn’t have a date, put ‘undated’
the page number where it begins
Refer to yourself as the ‘claimant’ and to your employer as the ‘respondent’. For example, if you asked your employer for more information, you should list that document as ‘Claimant’s request for more information’. Your employer’s reply should be listed as ‘Respondent’s reply to request for more information’.
Start your bundle with a section that includes:
your claim form
your employer’s response
any letters or emails between you and your employer asking for more information
You should list these documents in date order.
Next you should list all the other relevant documents in date order. Depending on your claim, this could include things like:
your employment contract
letters, emails or notes of meetings about grievances or disciplinary matters
a copy of your employer’s policy on grievance or disciplinary matters
the letter dismissing you - if you’ve been dismissed
your employer’s redundancy policy or how they decided who would be made redundant
If you're producing the bundle for a tribunal with 3 members, you need 6 copies - one for each member of the tribunal panel, one for the employer, one for you and one for the witnesses. If a judge is hearing your case alone, you’ll only need 4 copies. The case management order will usually tell you how many copies you need and what to do with them.
If your hearing is online, the tribunal will let you know how to prepare and share the bundle.
Asking work colleagues to be witnesses
Don’t worry if you don’t have any witnesses or as many as your employer. An employer usually has more witnesses than the person making the claim.
For example, if you were dismissed, a number of people are likely to have been involved in making that decision. Your employer is likely to call some of them as witnesses, so they might bring the person who did the investigation, the dismissing manager or someone from HR.
You only want witnesses who can give evidence that will help your case. It won’t make your case stronger if you have witnesses who just repeat the same evidence.
If you want a work colleague to be a witness, make sure they have something directly relevant to say. For example, if they witnessed what happened leading up to your dismissal, their evidence might be useful if the employer says something different happened.
Also make sure that anyone you ask to be a witness can come to the hearing. The tribunal will give less importance to a statement from someone who isn't there, because they can't question them about their statement.
Getting witnesses to attend a tribunal can be difficult, particularly if they still work for the employer. Witnesses often promise to come but then change their mind before the hearing. You can ask for an order from the tribunal to make a witness attend the hearing but it’s not usually a good idea to force someone to be a witness - they’re unlikely to be helpful and will often say they don’t remember.
If you have an adviser or representative, they can help you with this, or you can call the employment tribunal public enquiry line to ask how to do this.
If you want to withdraw your claim
You can withdraw your claim or part of it, for example if you’ve got another job and don’t want to continue with your claim.
If you’re making more than one claim, you can withdraw one claim without affecting the other.
Pete makes a claim for unfair dismissal and unpaid holiday pay. His employer pays his holiday pay, so Pete emails the tribunal to withdraw his claim for holiday pay. His unfair dismissal claim will continue.
If you want to withdraw your claim or any part of it, you should email the tribunal as soon as possible. You should also send your employer a copy of the email. The tribunal will then make an order to dismiss the claim - this means you won’t be able to change your mind.
The earlier you withdraw, the less likely it is that the tribunal will order you to pay your employer’s legal costs. You can find out more about what costs you might have to pay.
If you can, it’s better to try to negotiate a settlement with your employer. For example, you could offer to withdraw your claim in exchange for them:
paying you some money
giving you a reference
not asking you for costs
Finding someone to represent you
You can only get legal aid for representation at employment tribunals in certain limited cases. This will be provided under the assistance by way of representation provisions (ABWOR), but your case must meet specific criteria. You can read more about help with legal costs.
You might be able to make a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement with a solicitor. This is called a ‘speculative fee agreement’. This means if you win, you’ll have to pay the solicitor a percentage of what you get.