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In England and Wales, if you have to bring or defend a claim relating to your employment then that employment claim will be brought in an employment tribunal rather than a court.
Courts are more formal than tribunals and you need to be a specialist solicitor or barrister to be able to speak in a court. By contrast almost anybody can represent an employee or employer in a Tribunal. Employment tribunals (as the name suggests) hear all matters relating to disputes surrounding employment terms and conditions and employment laws.
The tribunal has discretion to make any order as it thinks fit and decide on the admissibility of evidence. The practice and procedures in tribunal is not a formal as other civil courts, and is governed by its own set of rules, principally:
· The Employment Tribunals Rules of Procedure (ET Rules) and
· The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/1861) (ET Regulations).
Territorial jurisdiction of the employment tribunal
An employment tribunal in England & Wales only has jurisdiction to deal with proceedings where the employer lives or conducts its business in England or Wales.
Commencing a claim
Once a claimant has established that an employment tribunal is the appropriate forum for their claim, they will need to:
· Complete a prescribed ET1 form.
· Identify the appropriate tribunal to which they should present their completed ET1.
· Decide on the means by which they will submit it.
· Submit the claim form within the time limit applicable to the claim they are bringing.
The time limit for submission of the claim form to the tribunal will be determined by the claim but generally speaking is normally 3 months
Responding to a claim
Where a tribunal accepts a claim, it sends a copy to the respondent and informs the respondent:
· How to present a response to the claim.
· The time limit for responding to a claim.
· What may happen if a response is not presented within the time limit.
· The respondent's entitlement to receive a copy of any judgement disposing of the claim.
When preparing to submit a response, a respondent needs to be aware of the following key requirements. It must:
· Use the prescribed ET3 form.
· Ensure it provides the required information.
· Within the 28 day time-limit, the respondent must presents its completed ET3 or make an application for an extension of time to present its completed ET3.
If the respondent does not present its completed ET3 or extension application, than he may be prevented from continuing to participate in proceedings because:
· The tribunal must, in certain circumstances, issue a default judgement.
· The respondent will (subject to some limited exceptions) be debarred from taking any further part in the proceedings.
Once the tribunal serves the claim and receives the response from the respondent, it is the duty of the judges to manage the cases justly. The judges have case management powers to ensure the smooth running of their cases. This enables the tribunal to:
· Give necessary orders (example, disclosure, inspections etc).
· Order standard directions for the parties to prepare for a full hearing.
· Analyse and identify the issues between the parties at an early stage
Judgement & Remedies
An oral or a subsequent written judgement may be given by the tribunal at the end of the hearing.
Review & appeal of tribunal decisions
The decision of the tribunal can only be challenged by simply requesting that the Tribunal review the decision they made or making a formal appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
Costs in employment tribunal
The employment judge has discretion to make any costs order against any of the parties but usually the rule is that each party bears its own costs.
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