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Starting an employment tribunal claim

This advice applies to England

You might want to make a claim to an employment tribunal if both the following apply:

  • you've got a problem at work that you can't sort out
  • you think your employer has done something that’s against the law

Using early conciliation before you make your claim

You can’t make a tribunal claim without going through ‘early conciliation’ first. 

Early conciliation is when an organisation called Acas tries to help you reach an agreement with your employer. 

You must go through early conciliation by a deadline, which is usually 3 months less 1 day from the date of the thing you’re complaining about.

When you’ve finished early conciliation you’ll have at least a month to make your tribunal claim.

You can read more about using early conciliation.

Filling in the ET1 claim form

After you’ve been through early conciliation, you can start your claim to an employment tribunal. 

To start your claim you can either:

You can read about making a claim to an employment tribunal on GOV.UK, including guidance to help you fill in the form.

If you have an adviser or representative you can ask them to help you fill in the form.

The form has a space for you to write a statement about your claim. If the case goes to a hearing, this is the first document the tribunal will read.

When you fill in the form, make sure you:

  • give a clear account of what your complaint is about - keep to the point as much as possible
  • write about events in the same order they happened
  • number your paragraphs - this will make it easier to find and refer to specific parts of your complaint  
  • mention every key event you are complaining about - if you miss something out, it might be hard to add it later 
  • try to avoid going into enormous detail about everything that happened

If your employer responds to your claim by saying it isn’t the kind of case an employment tribunal has the authority (‘jurisdiction’) to make a decision about, you need to get legal advice.

You might be able to get advice about your claim from the Acas Helpline.

Acas Helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 1100
Text relay: 18001 0300 123 1100
Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm
Website: www.acas.org.uk

Sending the ET1 claim form

You’re responsible for sending your form to the employment tribunal unless an adviser or representative has said they’ll send it for you.

Try to send the form as soon as you can rather than just before the deadline. Many employees find that they can’t bring their case because they left it too late.

If you send the ET1 form online

You should see a confirmation message as soon as you send the form.

You should also get a ‘notice of acknowledgment’ in the post to say the employment tribunal has received your claim form.

If you send the ET1 form by post

You can find out which office you should send your form to on GOV.UK

If you send the form by post and it’s delivered after the deadline it will count as late, even if you sent it before the deadline.

Make sure you get proof of postage - if your form arrives late and it’s not your fault you can show that you sent it in plenty of time.  

You should check that the tribunal has received your form. Make sure you check before the time limit runs out, so you can send it again if you need to. 

You should get a ‘notice of acknowledgment’ in the post to say the employment tribunal has received your claim form.

What happens next

The employment tribunal will copy your ET1 claim form and send it to your employer to see if they want to respond or defend themselves. 

Your employer’s response is called the ‘ET3’ and they are called the ‘respondent’ from now on. The employment tribunal should send you a copy of the ET3 about 4 weeks after you send your ET1 claim form.

You can find out more about your employer's response to an employment tribunal claim.

Your employment tribunal hearing

The employment tribunal hearing is when you go to the Employment Tribunal office and argue your case with your employer.

How long you'll have to wait can be very different depending on where you live, and how busy the employment tribunal is.

Although it's difficult to generalise, cases that only need 1 day for a hearing tend to have a hearing date between 4 to 6 months after you send the form. Some cases, like discrimination claims, will need longer than 1 day, so you might have to wait longer for a hearing.

You can read more employment tribunal hearings.

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