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How do I make a complaint to an employment tribunal and do I need to use a lawyer?

In most situations you should see if it is possible to resolve the problem with your employer first, before you complain to an employment tribunal. You should use your employer’s grievance procedure to make a formal complaint.

You may want to take legal advice on your rights and what remedies or compensation you may be entitled to. Your lawyer can help you approach your employer and negotiate an agreement, or if necessary prepare for a tribunal.

If you cannot reach agreement with your employer, you will need to contact the Acas Early Conciliation Service. This is a free service that tries to help you and your employer resolve your disagreement without going to a tribunal, though the Acas conciliator will not be able to give you advice. Even if you decide not to use their service, you cannot go to an employment tribunal without notifying Acas first.

If you still want to take your complaint to the tribunal, you need to fill in a claim form. You also need to pay an issue fee (normally £250). The deadline for applying to the tribunal is usually three months, though this is extended by any time you spend using the Early Conciliation Service.

The employer has 28 days to respond. If they don’t respond, the company will not be entitled to defend the claim. You will need to go to the hearing, taking along any documents you have to support your case. You can ask your lawyer to come with you. You also need to pay a hearing fee (normally £950).

At the hearing, you (or your lawyer) and the employer (or their lawyers) each present your side of the story to the judge (or panel of judges). You may also be questioned on your evidence. You may be told the decision immediately, or a few days later.

You don’t have to use a lawyer to go to an employment tribunal, but you may find they can help you prepare and present your case. Anyway, you may want to contact a lawyer first to ask their advice. For example, they can advise you on how strong a case you have. Your lawyer may also be able to negotiate a settlement agreement with the employer instead of needing to go to an employment tribunal.

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