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Preparing for your employment tribunal hearing

This advice applies to England

The employment tribunal will hear your case and make a decision at a hearing. This is sometimes called the ‘final’ or ‘substantive’ hearing. The tribunal will decide your case based on the evidence. 

There are some things you should do before the hearing to make sure you’re as well prepared as possible. 

Check how the hearing is taking place

The tribunal should tell you if your hearing is in person or online. If you don’t know what you need to do, contact them to find out. You can find the tribunal’s contact details on GOV.UK.

If you go to a hearing in person

There might be special rules because of coronavirus. Check how coronavirus affects tribunals on GOV.UK.

If your hearing is online

Check how to prepare for an online hearing.

The hearing notice from the tribunal will have a link to test your connection and details of how to get in touch if you have any problems. Make sure you test the link on the computer or device you’ll be using on the day of the hearing. 

Contact the tribunal if you:

  • have any problems with the link

  • haven’t got the link 2 days before the hearing  

If you have any witnesses, you’ll need to send them details of how to join the hearing. You should ask them to test the link on their computer or device too. They’ll have to join the hearing separately. 

If you need to delay the hearing

You should email the tribunal and your employer as soon as you know you need to delay it. Say why you need to delay the hearing. For example, you might want to delay the hearing if: 

  • you or one of your witnesses is sick

  • the tribunal has arranged an online hearing but you need a hearing in person

  • you couldn’t do things in time because of coronavirus

  • you need more time to get legal advice 

You should also say when you think the hearing should happen. 

If you ask for a hearing to be delayed, you might have to pay some of your employer’s legal expenses. It’s more likely you’ll have to pay if you ask for a delay less than a week before the hearing. 

Find out about the law that applies to your case 

If you don’t have a legal representative, you’ll need to understand the law that applies to your case and what facts you’ll need to prove. For example, if you’re claiming you’ve been unfairly dismissed, find out how the tribunal will decide if your dismissal was unfair. This will help you know what questions the tribunal will ask you and what you should ask your employer's witnesses. 

If you’ve been to a type of preliminary hearing called a ‘case management discussion’, the tribunal will have identified the legal issues that it will decide at the final hearing and sent you a summary. That will give you an idea of what you need to prove. 

Check you’ve done everything the tribunal has asked you to do

Make sure you've read and followed any orders the tribunal has made earlier in the case. This includes checking you’ve given the tribunal all the documents they’ve asked for. 

Read all the documents carefully

Read all the documents in the bundle and the witness statements. If your hearing is online, think about how you’ll look at both the documents and the tribunal at the same time. You might want to either:

  • print out copies of the documents

  • look at the documents on a second computer or device

Your witness statement is your evidence. It’s sometimes called your ‘evidence in chief’. Make sure you’re familiar with it. If your witness statement refers to a page in the bundle, highlight that page number and put a tag on that page in the bundle so you can find it easily. 

Make a list of questions you want to ask your employer's witnesses

During the hearing you’ll get a chance to ask your employer's witnesses questions. This is called 'cross-examination'. It’s a good idea to plan the questions you want to ask.

Your questions should:

  • be about things that are relevant to your case 

  • be put to the right witness - don't ask a witness what happened at a meeting if they weren't there

  • try to show the witness is wrong or mistaken - for example if documents or other witnesses have a different version of the same events

  • try to get witnesses to admit things that might help your case - for example that they’d given you a good appraisal just before dismissing you

You should also ask the witness to comment on your version of events even if you know they don't agree with you. You could say something like ‘It’s true isn’t it that ….'. 

It doesn’t matter if they disagree with you - you’re trying to show the tribunal where you and your employer disagree. You’re also giving the witness the chance to comment on your version of events. 

Don't worry too much if you don't know how to ask the questions - the tribunal will ask the witnesses questions too.

Check when the tribunal will decide on compensation 

The tribunal will usually decide at the same hearing what compensation or other remedy to give you. In some cases, they might say there’ll be a separate hearing called a 'remedy hearing’ - this is most likely in discrimination cases.

You should be prepared for the tribunal to deal with compensation. This means you should know how much you want the tribunal to award you if you win. You can find out more about how much compensation you should get

Prepare a list of key dates

Write a list of the things that happened in date order. This list is sometimes called a ‘time line’ or a ‘chronology'. This can help you avoid getting confused at the hearing. 

Check if someone will represent you at the hearing

If you have a representative, they’ll normally do all the case preparation and explain your case to the tribunal. 

Your representative doesn't have to be a lawyer - you could ask a family member or friend. They must understand your case. They can:

  • answer the tribunal's questions about the legal issues

  • question the other side’s witnesses - this is called ‘cross-examination’

  • explain why you should win at the end of the hearing

They can't answer questions about what actually happened to you - you have to do that yourself.

Don’t worry if you can't find a representative. Employment tribunals are set up for employees to appear on their own and are used to people appearing without a representative.

If you have a representative and you need to speak to them during the case, write down what you want to say on a piece of paper and pass it to them.

You can find out more about representatives at employment tribunal hearings.

Check who can be there to support you at the tribunal hearing

You can have friends or family with you to support you if you want to. If you go to a hearing, they’ll be able to sit behind you in the tribunal room. 

If your hearing is online, your friends or family can join the call but they will need to email the tribunal to ask for details of how to join the hearing. 

If they’re not your representative, your friends or family must be quiet and never interrupt the tribunal. 

Check what to have with you for the hearing

Make sure you have everything you need for the final hearing, including:

  • your copy of the bundle

  • your witness statements

  • your chronology

  • details of how much compensation you want

  • your list of questions for the other side’s witnesses

You should also have pens and paper to take notes. 

Check what you should wear to the employment tribunal hearing

The employment tribunal is a public, legal hearing, so try to dress as smartly as you can. Don’t go to too much trouble to dress up, but don't wear casual clothes like jeans and trainers. Don't chew gum and switch off your mobile phone when you go into the hearing. You shouldn't take food or drink into the tribunal room unless you have special health reasons to do so.

Check what happens on the day of the hearing

It’s a good idea to know what might happen on the day so that you can be prepared for that too. You can read more about what you might expect to happen

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