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What Happens at an Employment Tribunal Hearing?

This introductory guide to the Employment Tribunal process aims to give you a basic understanding of the Employment Tribunal process.

The Tribunal Process – An Overview

a) An employee (the Claimant) Issues a claim online or at the Tribunal Office using an ET1 Claim Form.

b) The ET1 is then sent to the employer (known as the Respondent), which has 28 days to lodge their response, using an ET3 Response Form.

c) After the ET3 has been processed by the Tribunal and sent to the Claimant, a Case Management Order will be made by the Tribunal. The Order states that certain steps have to be taken over the course of the following weeks or months, such as the preparation and exchange of lists of documents upon which both parties intend to rely, a schedule of loss and witness statements.

d) The case will then progress to a Hearing, which will decide whether the claim succeeds or fails.


Witnesses should attend the Hearing to give relevant evidence, although written witness statements should be exchanged in advance of the Hearing.

The Tribunal also has power to issue a Witness Order to summon someone that you want to have at the Hearing, even if they do not want to be there (although calling a “hostile” witness can be dangerous).

You, your witnesses and volunteer representatives (for example, unpaid representatives from a Citizens’ Advice Bureau) are no longer entitled to claim expenses related to the Hearing from the Tribunal.

The Hearing Itself

The date, time and place of the Hearing, and the estimated time it will take, will be set out by the Tribunal in writing.

The Hearing will normally be conducted by an Employment Judge on his or her own but in certain cases, like discrimination claims, there may be a full Tribunal, which includes an Employment Judge and two lay members (who are often from Business and Trade Union backgrounds).

If one of the parties fails to appear at the Hearing, the Tribunal may decide the case in their absence.

The Employment Judge will make sure that the Hearing proceeds in a calm and measured way. However, he or she may have to be firm in moving the case on to make sure that it proceeds at a pace which allows it to be dealt with within the time set aside. Generally in an unfair dismissal case the Respondent will give evidence and call any witnesses first, while in other types of claim the Claimant will normally be first to give evidence followed by any witnesses.

You and your witnesses will have to give evidence on oath or affirmation. If you lie after swearing an oath or affirmation you could be convicted of perjury.

In England and Wales a written statement is normally read by the Tribunal and this stands as your main evidence. You will then be cross-examined by the other side, before you will be given the opportunity to give further evidence by way of clarification. (“re-examination”). Finally, the Employment Judge and members may also ask questions.

Once all the evidence has been heard, both sides can sum up before the Tribunal retires to consider their Judgment.

Unless the Tribunal ‘reserves’ its judgment, the Employment Judge will announce the Judgment and the reasons for it at the end of the Hearing. If the Judgment is reserved you will receive it, and the reasons for it, in writing at a later date.

If the claim succeeds the Tribunal will normally expect to deal with compensation issues at the Hearing.


Generally speaking, parties are responsible for their own legal costs for pursuing or defending a claim. However, the Tribunal does have the power to make an order for costs in certain circumstances, in particular where pursuing or defending an unmeritorious claim (or defence) or where a party has acted unreasonably during the course of the claim.

For more information on Employment Tribunals and other Employment Rights, please call one of our Employment Solicitors in our Employment Rights team in Leeds on 033 3344 9603.

Download the full What Happens at an Employment Tribunal Hearing factsheet.

 This Fact Sheet is for information only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice.


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