When an employer receives an ET claim there is a specific limited timescale in which to submit a defence, known as a ‘response’, to the Tribunal. Employers should act quickly to gather all relevant information and seek advice to ensure they respond appropriately and within the timeframe.
Prior to submitting a claim, a claimant will have had to engage Acas in Early Conciliation so employers may have prior notice that a claim will be coming. However, in some instances, the employee can state they do not wish to engage in this process, in which case the employer is not notified and the first thing they get is the notice of claim.
A claim will set out the contact and employment details of the employee, who the claim is brought against, as well as the particulars of claim. Where an employee is legally represented, the claims should be well set out and enable the employer to understand the claims made against it.
However, some employees represent themselves and, in those cases, the specific claims brought against the employer may be unclear. It is key to get advice on ET claims to ensure they are not missed, and each potential claim is responded to.
ET claims have to be brought within strict time limits so, upon receipt of a claim, you should check the employee’s final date of employment or the dates on which any of the allegations in the claim happened. It may be possible to raise initial jurisdiction points in the response on grounds that the claim is submitted out of time. The rules around time limits can be complicated, so early advice on such points is important.
A response should confirm or correct the claimant’s stated employment details. For each claim set out by the claimant, an employer should ensure that it responds clearly to either accept or deny the claim. An employer also needs to set out succinct background information so that the Tribunal can review whether the defence has reasonable prospects of success.
The notice of claim may come with further information from the Tribunal regarding a final hearing date, directions for the parties to follow in preparation for a full hearing, and details of any preliminary hearing. These should be diarised and, if a final hearing is listed, any potential witnesses should be informed to ensure that they are able to attend.
Failing to respond to an ET claim is likely to result in a default judgment being entered against the employer, which can be difficult and costly to try and overturn. It is therefore essential that any employees dealing with post ensure that Tribunal paperwork is passed immediately to the HR or management team.
Taking good advice on receipt of an ET claim can ensure employers are able to put forward a strong defence and minimise the time and expense when dealing with a claim.
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