The Role of Employment Tribunals in Discrimination Claims

Experiencing discrimination at work can have a significant impact on an employee’s life. Whether it is direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment or victimisation, being treated unfairly in the workplace can influence health and well-being as well as financial security and future career prospects. 


Many who face discrimination will turn to Employment Tribunals as a way to seek justice and get compensation. Understanding the role of these tribunals in handling discrimination claims is crucial for employees. In this post, we have delved into the intricacies of discrimination in employment law, focusing on how tribunals operate in cases of discrimination claims.


Understanding Discrimination in Employment Law


Discrimination in the workplace refers to unfair treatment based on certain protected characteristics such as; age, gender, race and nationality, religion and belief, sexual orientation or disability. The Equality Act 2010 (EqA), provides a clear framework to identify and address various forms of discrimination. This key piece of legislation protects a vast area of the UK workforce and every section of UK employment. When being discriminated against at work by a colleague or an employer, you may be able to make a discrimination claim. 


The Function of Employment Tribunals in Discrimination Cases


When an employee believes they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination, they can bring their case to an Employment Tribunal. These tribunals are designed to resolve disputes between employers and workers regarding employment rights. They are part of the wider judicial system and most of their caseload consists of claims for compensation or other remedies made by workers against employers.


Employment Tribunals will hear small cases that involve relatively small amounts of money as well as complex cases which can last for several weeks. Every year, they deal with tens of thousands of claims and judgments are published on an online register. It is key to note that before making an Employment Tribunal claim, the vast majority of the time there must be an attempt to settle through conciliation following the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance Procedures. Ignoring this code can potentially result in penalties when a claim reaches an Employment Tribunal. 


Key Steps in the Tribunal Process for Discrimination Claims


In the UK, the process of taking a discrimination claim to the Employment Tribunal involves several key stages, each critical in ensuring that justice is served fairly and effectively. Here is an overview of the essential steps in the tribunal process;


Filing a Claim


The process begins with an employee filing a claim with the tribunal using an ET1 form. This comprehensive form will include details of the discrimination faced and you should be as detailed as possible when completing it. A discrimination claim needs to be filed within the stipulated time frame, which is typically within three months less one day from the date of the most recent discriminatory act.


Response from the Employer


Once a claim is filed, the tribunal notifies the employer, who must then submit an ET3 form. When responding to a claim of unlawful treatment, an employer should include any relevant details or evidence to contest the claim. This response from the employer is a crucial document as it sets the stage for the tribunal proceedings, outlining their defence against the allegations.


Preliminary Hearings


Preliminary hearings are sometimes scheduled to resolve procedural issues, clarify the points of law or determine the specifics of the tribunal hearing. These hearings are essential in setting the groundwork for the case, ensuring that both parties are clear about the legal frameworks and issues that are going to be addressed. Depending on the complexity of the case, one or more preliminary hearings may be required. 


Tribunal Hearings


The tribunal hearings are where the claims are decided. Here, both parties present their evidence and arguments to an Employment Judge. Witnesses may be called to testify and both the claimant and employer are subject to questioning. This stage is critical as it provides a platform for all evidence to be thoroughly examined and contested.




After all evidence and arguments have been presented, the tribunal makes a decision on the case. If the tribunal finds in favour of the claimant, it will also determine the appropriate remedy. Remedies can include compensation, which might cover injury to feelings and loss of earnings, and sometimes, recommendations for the employer to change its practices, aiming to prevent similar incidents in the future. 




It is possible for workers and employers to challenge the judgement by filing an appeal. There are strict time limits to appeal and it is beneficial to seek further legal advice before appealing against the Employment Tribunal’s decision. 


Challenges and Considerations


When pursuing a discrimination claim through an Employment Tribunal in the UK, claimants must navigate a range of challenges and considerations. These aspects are pivotal in the preparation and presentation of a case, and understanding them is crucial for anyone seeking justice for workplace discrimination. 


Burden of Proof


The burden of proof in discrimination claims initially lies with the claimant. This means the employee bringing the claim must first establish sufficient facts that they were discriminated against. This often involves demonstrating how they were treated differently compared to others in similar circumstances. Once this initial burden is met, the responsibility then shifts to the employer, who must prove that the treatment was not due to discriminatory reasons and instead, for the greater good of the businesses. This shift in the burden of proof is a crucial aspect of the legal process and can be complex, requiring careful presentation of evidence. 


Time Limits


Time limits in tribunal procedures are very strict. As mentioned above, claims must generally be brought within three months less one day from the date of the discriminatory act. This tight timeframe underscores the importance of acting promptly when facing discrimination. In exceptional cases, tribunals may consider claims beyond this period, but these are very rare and not the norm. Understanding and adhering to these time limits is crucial to ensure that your claim is heard and not dismissed on procedural grounds.


Legal Representation


Given the intricate nature of discrimination cases, getting legal representation is highly recommended. Employment law specialists offer expertise in navigating the legal system and procedural requirements, as well as advising specifically on discrimination in employment law. They will represent the case effectively and they can be instrumental in getting the compensation you deserve. Legal experts can be the difference between a winning case and one that fails to meet the rigorous demands of tribunal proceedings.


Make a Claim for Discrimination in London


Employment Tribunals play a vital role in getting justice if you have been discriminated against at work. These tribunals not only provide a resolution to individual cases but also contribute to the broader aim of promoting equality and preventing discrimination at work. For anyone facing discrimination in London or elsewhere in the UK, understanding the tribunal process is the first step towards asserting your rights and seeking a fair resolution.


If you need some assistance making a claim for discrimination in London, contact our team at Nationwide Employment Lawyers today. We can represent you from beginning to end and we provide an extremely high standard of service at a lower cost than many comparable firms in the city. We have a deep understanding of discrimination law and no matter what type of discrimination you have experienced, we can help. To find out more about how we can assist you, do not hesitate to get in touch with us today. 

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