Employment tribunal procedure is designed to deal with claims brought against employers by employees, which have not been resolved by other means. Many employment rights are contained in legislation and the majority of these rights can only be enforced by Employment Tribunals. Tribunals also have jurisdiction to consider some contractual claims arising from contracts of employment. While an Employment Tribunal hearing is less formal than a court hearing, the decisions made by Employment Tribunals are legally binding and must be followed. ?So what happens on the day?
Who will hear the case?
If the case proceeds to a full hearing it will be heard by a Tribunal of three people:
- a legally-qualified Employment Judge
- two lay members (subject to certain exceptions)
- one lay member should have experience from the employer's side of disputes
- the other lay member should have experience from the trade union movement
During the hearing the Employment Judge is under a duty to ensure that the hearing is conducted fairly, taking into account both sides' submissions on the law and facts relating to the case.
Employment Tribunal Procedure
At the hearing, the employee and the employer have the opportunity to put their cases to the Employment Tribunal. Normally the employee will give evidence first, except in unfair dismissal cases where the employer goes first. However there is no absolute rule as to which side starts.
All witnesses have to give evidence on oath or affirmation. If a witness lies after swearing an oath or affirmation they can be convicted of perjury.
In Scotland there is no provision for written witness statements. Each witness will give their evidence orally and once this has finished the other side will then be given the opportunity to ask the witness questions. This is known as cross examination. The Employment Judge and other members of the tribunal may also ask the witness some questions.
Once all the evidence has been heard, the Employment Judge will either announce the judgment on the day, or reserve their position and send out the judgment at a later date. Judges and non-legal members are completely independent and they make decisions impartially. Once a judgment is issued in respect of a particular case the matter is determined and, subject to an appeal or a review, it cannot be re-opened.
If you need advice about a forthcoming Tribunal, please get in touch with our experienced employment team.