My first seat within my Traineeship at Jackson Boyd was in Employment law. Clients who were due to attend an Employment Tribunal hearing would often, understandably, feel anxious about being in in front of an Employment Judge or a Tribunal, particularly (as is often the case) if it’s their first time being involved in any legal proceedings. This I can relate to myself having entered the world of litigation about a year ago now – Tribunals and Court can be daunting! However, what may seem a difficult or distressing situation for you is something which Jackson Boyd will have encountered regularly.
Frequently, clients have asked me ‘what happens at a Tribunal?’, ‘where do I stand?’ or ‘will the Judge speak to me?’ This guide is intended to give a brief overview of what you can expect to happen if attending an Employment Tribunal hearing, and what you can expect if giving evidence.
Start of the hearing
Tribunal hearings are usually conducted in modern rooms with the Tribunal Judge or panel sitting at a table on a slightly raised platform and the claimant and respondent sitting at tables facing them. There is a separate witness table from which the witnesses give evidence.
When the Tribunal starts the Employment Judge will introduce himself. The parties and their representatives will then sit down, even when addressing the Tribunal. Evidence is also given with the witnesses sitting down. The procedure at an Employment Tribunal hearing is very similar to that of the civil courts, although the tribunal is less formal than a court and there will be no one wearing wigs or gowns.
In Employment Tribunal hearings the Employment Judge (an experienced solicitor or barrister, who is addressed as “Sir” or “Madam”) will usually hear the case on his or her own unless he or she directs otherwise. In some cases, such as discrimination claims, the Judge will hear the case with two lay members (who are often from Business and Trade Union backgrounds). Hearings are generally conducted in public and may be reported in the media.
The party who has the burden of proof will normally begin the proceedings by having their witnesses give evidence. If you are giving evidence you will be called to the witness table when it is your turn. You will then be asked questions by your representative and often by the Tribunal panel. A copy of any documents the parties wish to rely on will be in front of you on the table so that you can refer to them. After this you will be asked questions by the other party or their representative. This is known as ‘cross-examination’. Essentially, this is the opposite side putting their case to you and they may ask leading questions.
Giving evidence can be daunting and the important point is to be truthful rather than try to get the ‘right’ answer. It is quite proper to say that you do not know or cannot remember if that is the truth.
Both parties (or their representatives) make closing submissions once all the evidence has been given. This gives them the opportunity to summarise their case to the Tribunal. Generally this is done orally although the Tribunal will sometimes ask for submissions in writing.
Once the hearing has finished the Employment Judge or panel will adjourn to consider its decision. It may give its judgment orally on the day of the hearing or the decision will be reserved and a written judgment sent out to the parties at a later date.
In order to discuss any employment law matter or if you think you have a potential claim, please contact Jackson Boyd today. We will guide you through the legal process from beginning to end, helping to ensure that it is as stress free a process as possible.
Please contact us online by clicking here or speak to a member of our specialist team on 0333 222 1855.