5 essentials for winning at the Employment Tribunal
Through our advice and guidance we aim to avoid clients needing to engage with an Employment Tribunal claim; but if it does happen, we’re here to steer you through the process and ensure you’re as prepared as possible.
Employment Tribunal cases can be won or lost very early on in the process before you even sit down in front of the judge at a final hearing. When most people think about a Tribunal claim they focus on the day in court and the Judge that will make the decision. The hearing will always be important, but the key to winning the case comes well before the hearing day. As a mentor of mine once said, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”.
Here are, what I think, are the 5 most important things to remember if you want to win an Employment Tribunal case.
The Employment Tribunal process is navigated using a strict timetable that’s set by the Tribunal. If you receive notice that a claim has been made against you there will be a deadline by which you need to respond to that claim.
If you miss deadlines, particularly the deadline for filing your defence, you will lose the case before you’ve begun. The Tribunal have the power to prevent further participation in a claim if deadlines are missed and Judges don’t take kindly to parties that fail to comply with their orders.
It’s imperative that you are organised and methodical in order to meet deadlines if you want to avoid stressful and last-minute applications. Make sure you write down the dates that each step needs to be completed by and begin preparing to comply well in advance.
Be transparent with your Solicitor
There’s no better way to lose a Tribunal case that by only telling half a story and hiding issues you think will undermine your case.
The best thing you can do is be up front with your Solicitor. They will be well placed to consider the best way to tackle any potential issues. If you don’t tell them about the difficult points they won’t be able to make a plan of action to address them. You’re often better to face weaknesses in a case head on to avoid them being exploited or becoming bigger issues than they are.
Trust me, they will always be discovered at some point and it will look far worse if you’ve tried to hide it.
Focus on the issues
When a Judge adjudicates a case, they are applying the facts to a specific set of legal questions. The answers to those legal questions dictate which party wins or loses.
Focus on the specific legal questions being asked and give the Judge the evidence and information to answer those questions. Overloading with peripheral details can serve to frustrate and dilute what would otherwise be a good argument.
Avoid unnecessary arguments with the other side
There’s no doubt Tribunals can be emotionally charged. Both parties feel judged, undermined or unjustifiably wronged and it’s human nature to get defensive.
It can be a difficult skill to apply but, if you can keep the frustration and emotion out of your discussions with the other side, you will demonstrate reasonableness and fairness far more effectively.
A Judge wants to arrive at a hearing with a case that’s fully and cogently prepared so they can make a fair and reasoned assessment of the circumstances. They really don’t want to start a hearing listening to arguments about who put what on social media and why someone has refused to provide evidence in accordance with orders.
Be prepared to concede a point if it’s futile or unimportant
The adversarial nature of a Tribunal case can translate into a feeling that you need to defend every last detail and not be seen to give ground.
Try to take a step back and see the bigger picture; pick your battles carefully. Fight the points that need to be defended but let minor and inconsequential points go. You won’t win friends and influence people by being unnecessarily obstructive or asking a Tribunal to make a decision on a raft of insignificant details.
Author: Sarah Edwards LL.B (Hons), Senior Employment Law Solicitor at Howarths