Man speaking from podium at a tribunal hearing

Employment Tribunals

Employment Tribunals

Employment tribunals are the first point of the judicial system that determines issues of employment rights and disputes between employers and their employees such as:

  • whether a dismissal has been conducted fairly
  • whether an individual has been unlawfully discriminated against on the grounds of one or more of the nine protected characteristics
  • whether there has been an unlawful deduction from an individual employee’s pay
  • various other employment disputes.

Composition of the tribunal

The tribunal for most unfair dismissal claims, and for relatively simple claims about contractual rights, such as the national minimum wage, or an unlawful deduction from wages, is comprised of a judge sitting alone.

The tribunal is comprised of a judge and two lay members where the claim is for discrimination, whistleblowing or some other complex issue. The two lay members are drawn from the two sides of industry and their role is to bring workplace knowledge and experience to the panel as a balance and enhancement to the legal knowledge of the judge.

Making a claim

All types of claim are made by completing a form ET1, accessible from the website at However, before any claim can be submitted to the ET an ACAS Early Conciliation (EC) form must be submitted. The form is available from the ACAS website at:

Once the EC form is submitted ACAS will ask the employer whether it wants to settle the claim before an ET. If the employer declines, then conciliation ends and an ET1 can be completed but must include the EC certificate number provided by ACAS.

Once an ET1 is received by the tribunal service a copy is sent to the employer who has 28 days to enter their response on a form ET3. A copy of the ET3 is then sent to the claimant or their nominated representative and copies of both forms are sent to ACAS. The role of ACAS is to explore whether the two parties can reach a settlement before the case goes to a full tribunal.

Time limits

There strict time limits for making a claim to an ET. In the majority of cases that time limit is three calendar months, less one day. It is therefore essential that members who believe they may have a valid claim seek advice from their organiser team, via their local representative, as soon as they form that belief.

TSSA legal support

A member who believes they may have a claim to an employment tribunal and who wishes to seek legal support from TSSA must first seek the advice of their organising team by asking their local representative to obtain a review of their case. If the organiser believes there is a potentially successful claim the case will be referred to the employment rights adviser (ERA) for a more thorough analysis of the likelihood of success at a tribunal.

If there appears to be more than a 50 percent prospect of success the case will be referred to our solicitors who will deal with all matters until its conclusion through settlement or hearing.

If there is less than 50 percent chance of success then the ERA will not make a referral to the solicitors but will write to the member advising why that judgment has been reached. If the member is not satisfied with the decision not to provide legal assistance the member will have the right to make an appeal to the executive committee (EC) and the letter will set out the procedure for making such an appeal. The decision of the EC will be final.

If the member takes legal advice from outside the union before a referral to their organiser is made, or at any time during the internal procedure for obtaining TSSA legal support, TSSA will not normally progress the matter to our solicitors, nor will they pay any legal costs incurred by the member in seeking that advice.

TSSA will only consider referring a case to our solicitors when the events that lead to the potential claim arise after the member has joined the union. TSSA will not provide legal support to a member for a claim which begins with events that predate their membership, although we may provide support in internal proceedings.

TSSA Helpdesk

0800 328 2673 United Kingdom

1800 805 272 Republic of Ireland

Helpdesk Enquiry Form

Member advice from our Helpdesk

If you are a TSSA member and are looking for advice or assistance in connection with your employment or membership, you can contact our Members’ Helpdesk.

We can advise on a range of workplace issues including; discipline and grievance hearing, maternity rights and redundancy.

Helpdesk opening hours: 09:00 - 17:00 Monday - Thursday  |  09:00 - 16:00 Friday

Please note: we cannot undertake to provide advice to non-members, to members of other unions, or to members on behalf of their partners/friends. If you are not yet a member, please join TSSA online.