Have you ever made an application to a tribunal and failed to get what you wanted? Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever thought about how you could have done better? If you have answered yes to any of those questions, this guide is for you.
Tribunals are scary things and going in unprepared is a sure-fire way to lose. Having the right representation and understanding how this representation can help is vital to success.
In this article we will discuss exactly what tribunal representation is, how it can help you, and what the law says about representation.
What is an employment tribunal?
An employment tribunal is an independent body that resolves disputes between an employee and their employer.
An employer can make a claim against their employer at an employment tribunal if they think they have been treated unfairly or the company has broken the law.
What are the most common claims at an employment tribunal?
The most common claims at an employment tribunal usually involve:
- Unfair dismissal, including constructive dismissal
- Unlawful discrimination, on the grounds of sex, race, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, or religion or belief
- Unpaid wages or deductions from pay
- Unpaid holiday pay
- Notice pay
Is an employment tribunal like going to court?
Attending an employment tribunal is similar to attending court, but it’s designed to be faster and more informal. The parties can be represented by solicitors, barristers, trade union representatives or non-legally qualified consultants, or can even represent themselves.
The case will be decided by a tribunal judge, unless it is a more complex matter, e.g., a discrimination claim. In such cases, a three-person tribunal panel made up of a judge and two lay members; one from a trade union and one from an employer background, will hear your case.
What is employment law tribunal representation?
In short, tribunal representation is the process of attending an employment tribunal with a representative who is there to help you.
Whilst the majority of the legal system in the UK is designed for specialists who have trained extensively in the law, employment tribunals are less formal and more geared towards laymen. This is in part due to the need to keep things simple so both employers (who will often be legally represented) and their employees (who will often represent themselves or have a non-legally qualified representative) to understand proceedings.
As such, tribunal representation is a more relaxed affair and individuals can be represented by solicitors, barristers, trade union representatives or non-legally qualified consultants, or they may even represent themselves
What is the role of a tribunal representative?
In ideal circumstances a tribunal representative should assist and guide the person they are representing through the process of creating a submission and gathering evidence to support their case.
At the actual tribunal they should assist the person they are representing with guidance on case law, etc. in support of their claim.
The reality, more often than not, from an employee’s perspective is that they are only able to help with the submission and evidence. This is often due to employee choosing friends, colleagues, or family members to represent them who have little understanding of the law.
Can you represent yourself at employment tribunal?
Yes, but this depends on the individual involved, their level of knowledge in the area, and their time and capacity to deal with the matter.
Self-representation will be treated sympathetically, and perhaps more leniently than those professionally represented.
Employment tribunal self-representation is common, and the system is designed to be as user-friendly as possible to allow for this. But the lack of legal knowledge is often a real problem in winning cases.
Our advice is to get either trade union or legal representation to maximise the chances of winning at tribunal.
What does a tribunal representative have to do?
If you need a representative, they will be able to prepare your case and explain it to the tribunal.
Your representative will need be responsible for the following:
- Answer any questions about legal issues in the tribunal. Cross-examine any witnesses. They will also conclude the case by explaining why you should win the hearing at the end.
- During your case, the representative will speak with the person they are representing to discuss matters and decide on the course of action. It is important they are guided on your wishes to avoid outcomes that are unsatisfactory.
- A representative may instigate a settlement on your behalf. This will be legally binding, so whatever has been agreed must be kept. If you do want to take an agreement, make sure you’re happy with it before its accepted.
Can I get free representation for employment tribunal?
As mentioned earlier, you can represent yourself or get a friend, family member or work colleague to attend with you. In all these situations we would assume the representation would be free of charge.
If you are looking for free qualified legal support, this may be difficult to find as there is limited support and advice available.
If you are looking for free legal advice, check out these options:
- ACAS are a good place to start when looking for legal advice. Their guidance is adhered to across employment law, and they are often happy to help with both sides in a disagreement. Be aware, however, that they seldom provide tribunal representation services.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to assist with finding tribunal representation. Again, CAB is a god source of free legal advice but will be unable to provide representation themselves, although they will be able to point you in the right direction to find some.
Going to an employment tribunal can be a daunting experience and taking somebody along to help is often vital in winning the case.
We hope you have enjoyed our guide on tribunal representation. For more useful workplace information, check out the rest of our website.
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