Discrimination at work - taking your case to an employment tribunal
The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. If you’ve been discriminated against at work, you may be able to take action against your employer under the Act.
If you’ve not been able to resolve your discrimination problem with your employer, you can make a claim in the employment tribunal.
Read this page to find out about making a claim in the employment tribunal.
Before you take legal action about discrimination at work
Before you take action about discrimination, you need to:
- be reasonably sure that unlawful discrimination has taken place, according to the Equality Act 2010
- check that you're someone who's protected against discrimination at work under the Act - if you're a job applicant, an agency worker or an employee within the meaning of the Act, you're someone who's protected against discrimination.
- More about things you should do before you take action about discrimination
- More about who's protected against discrimination at work under the Act
Making a discrimination claim
If possible, it’s always best to try and sort things out with your employer before making a claim - for example, by raising a grievance.
If you decide to take legal action, you need to make your claim in the employment tribunal. You don’t have to have worked for your employer for any particular length of time to make a discrimination claim.
Tribunal action can be a long and stressful process. It can also be expensive. You'll have to pay a fee when you make your claim unless you're eligible for a full or partial fee remission because you're on a low income. In addition, you'll also have to pay a second fee if your claim goes to a hearing, unless you're eligible for a fee remission.
If you’re thinking about going to the tribunal, you should get advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
- More about how to resolve your discrimination problem without going to the employment tribunal
- More about tribunal fees and how much you will have to pay if you make a claim
There are strict time limits for making your claim to the tribunal. You have 3 months less one day from the date when the discrimination happened to make your claim.
It’s very important to make your claim within the time limit as otherwise it won't normally be accepted by the tribunal.
Can you get legal aid?
You may be able to get legal aid to help you pay for your tribunal action. To get legal aid you need to meet the eligibility criteria. You can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) who can help you find out if you can get legal aid.
- You can also check if you're eligible on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk
Starting your claim
Before you make your claim to the employment tribunal, you need to notify Acas of your intention to make a claim. Acas will then try to reach a settlement between you and your employer. This is called Early Conciliation.
If you don’t reach an agreement, or if you don’t want to try and conciliate, Acas will give you a certificate. You can only make your claim to the employment tribunal if you have this certificate.
Completing the ET1
To start your claim you need to complete a form called an ET1. This is where you explain to the tribunal what your discrimination claim is about. If you have an adviser or representative ask them to help you with this.
Your ET1 form must be officially received at the tribunal office within the time limit. If your claim form arrives late the tribunal won’t normally be able to accept it.
What happens next?
When you've sent your ET1 form, you should check that the tribunal has received it. Make sure you do this before the time limit runs out, so that you can send it again if you need to. You should get a Notice of Acknowledgment soon after you send in your ET1.
Once your claim has been received, the tribunal will send a copy to your employer to see if they want to defend themselves or respond to your claim. Usually, they will make their response on a form called an ET3 and the tribunal will send you a copy.
The tribunal will then set a date for your hearing. This may take several months depending on where you live, how busy the tribunal is and how complex your claim is.
Once you’ve started your claim, the employment tribunal may invite you and your employer to participate in something called judicial mediation. Judicial mediation is a way of resolving a dispute with your employer without the need to go to a full hearing.
If you’ve been dismissed
If you’ve been dismissed, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal in addition to making a discrimination claim.
Generally speaking, you can only claim unfair dismissal if you’ve worked for your employer for a certain amount of time. But if you’re dismissed because you’re pregnant or because of a pregnancy related reason, you can claim unfair dismissal regardless of how long you’ve worked for your employer.
- Time limits for making a discrimination claim in the employment tribunal
- Discrimination at work - evidence in an employment tribunal case
- Taking legal action about discrimination at work - flowchart
- More information about how to make a claim to the employment tribunal
Other useful information
Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)
If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website.
Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) provides free and impartial information and advice on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law.
To talk to an adviser about your employment problem, call the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100.