Responding to an employment tribunal claim
It can be daunting when an employment tribunal claim form is pushed through your letterbox. However in the majority of cases you should be aware there is a possibility of a claim because ACAS may have contacted you via the early conciliation process (see Jack Troup’s tips on ‘How to get the most out of early conciliation’).
Employment tribunal claims consist of a cover letter which will detail the name of the parties, the ex-employees name (the claimant) and the employers name (the Respondent). This cover letter is very important as it will tell you what you need to do but most importantly give you a deadline to do it by. In addition you will receive a copy of the claimants claim form (the ET1) as well as a blank response form called an ET3.
What should you do in the event of receiving an Employment Tribunal claim form.
You need to make sure you keep the forms together and note the deadline for the response to be submitted. Start to gather the information you need to write a comprehensive response.
Seek advice to make sure you know your rights and respond appropriately to all aspects of the claim.
An advisor should be able to advise you on what to do next and will advise you initially on the formalities and latterly on the merits of the case. Your advisor should also look at aspects like time limits to see if the claimant has issued their claim in time.
Generally speaking most claims should be submitted within 3 months of the event detailed in the complaint. Employees have only 3 months to submit a claim to the Tribunal from either their employment ending or the event or issue that the claim is about. This changes on a case by case basis and depends on the length and dates of the early conciliation period. However if the claimant submits their claim outside of the three month time limit then the claim may be struck out.
Avensure offer advice and representation in Employment Tribunals for employers. Avensure can draft the ET3 with you and respond to the claim on your behalf; we can even put ourselves on record as your representatives meaning all further correspondence comes to us and not you.
Prepare your defence
You need to write down your version of events. The ET1 is very one sided as it is what the claimant says happened. The ET3 is your chance to get across your version of events. You need to cover every aspect of your version of events in the ET3. Failing to mention or plead something in the ET3 could be detrimental later on.
If you cannot fit all you have to say onto the ET3 you can use extra sheets of paper, but you must submit an ET3 with the mandatory fields completed. Please remember that if you state something on the ET3 you are best to have evidence to support what you say. Irrelevant or incorrect assertions can undermine your case because this is the first document the Employment Judge will read from the Respondent.
Submit the defence on time
You MUST submit the defence by the time limit imposed by the Tribunal, you will have 28 days to submit the ET3 from the date the notification and forms were sent to you so you need to act on it immediately and not put the papers in a drawer hoping that the issues will go away. Also keep a copy of the ET3 for your records, send the original back to the Employment Tribunal but make sure you have a copy to later refer to.
If the deadline says that it is on the 5th then the Employment Tribunal need to have received the ET3 by the 5th. If you send the ET3 on the 5th by first class post it will be late!
If you don’t respond properly or in time you are taking a risk because you may;
- Be precluded from taking part in the proceedings – this is extremely detrimental to the case because if you fail to respond and then later want to take part in the case you participation may be limited or even wholly refused by the Employment Judge.
- Receive a Default Judgement against you – this is a judgement that really says in effect ‘the claimant has submitted the form, the Respondent has failed to reply so the claimant wins’. In the absence of a response from/ET3 the claimant will very likely be awarded most, if not all, of the compensation that they were seeking.
Make sure that you act promptly and call Avensure if you are uncertain.