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Employer's response to an employment tribunal claim

About an employer's response to an employment tribunal claim

If you've got a problem at work that you can't sort out, you may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

This page tells you what you'll get back from your employer once you've made a claim to an employment tribunal and what you should do with this.

For more information about starting a claim to an employment tribunal, see Starting an employment tribunal claim.

There may be other ways of sorting out your problem than making a claim to an employment tribunal.

For more information about other ways of sorting out your problem at work than making a claim to an employment tribunal, see Sorting out problems at work.

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The employer's response form

When you've made a claim to an employment tribunal, a copy will be sent to your employer to see if they want to defend themselves or respond to your claim. Usually, they will make their response on a form called an ET3.

Occasionally, employers don't respond but this is quite rare. If your employer doesn't respond, the employment tribunal might make a judgment on your case that is automatically in your favour. This is called a default judgment.

The ET3 is a very important document. The employer will usually set out their response to your complaint, which becomes a summary of their case. Don't write any comments on the ET3 form, as it may need to be photocopied and shown to the tribunal. If you have any comments, write them on a separate sheet.

A copy of your ET1 claim form, the ET3 and any other tribunal papers will also be sent to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). They will contact you and your employer to try to help sort out the dispute.

For more information about Acas and how they might help you, see Understanding Acas and settlements.

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What if I disagree with what my employer says?

There might be things in your employer's ET3 response form that you strongly disagree with, or that make you angry.

But you shouldn’t write to your employer or the tribunal about what is said in the ET3. At this stage, getting involved in arguments with your employer about what's been said is a waste of time and might damage your case or negotiating position. The time and place for arguing about your case and what your employer says is later on, in discussions about a possible settlement or in the tribunal hearing.

When you look at the ET3 form, try to work out where you disagree with your employer. Then work out what evidence you'll need to challenge what your employer has said. This might be things like emails from colleagues, or your diary of what happened. Get together as much of this evidence as you can.

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How can I get more information and documents from my employer?

When you look at the ET3 form, you may find you need more information or explanation to understand what your employer has said. You may also want to see certain documents. The employment tribunal has rules about how you can ask to see these documents. This is called disclosure.

To do this, you should write to the employer or their representative and ask them to give you all the documents relevant to your case.

If your employer won't give you the documents you've asked for, or you think there are documents they’ve missed out, you can apply to the tribunal for an order. This is an instruction from the tribunal about what should happen. In this situation, the tribunal would be instructing your employer to give you the information you're asking for. You can do this by writing to the tribunal, and explaining why you think the documents are important.

The tribunal normally won't make an order if they think you're asking for too much, or your questions aren't relevant to the case. Remember, you can only ask for information that gives evidence to support your case, or against your employer’s case.

Your employer can use the same procedure to ask you for information and documents. It’s important that you carry out this request, particularly if the tribunal makes an order. But it might be that you’re not happy with the request. For example, this might be because you don’t think the documents are relevant, or there might be other personal information on them, for example on your medical records. If you're in this situation, you can explain to the tribunal either why you don't think the documents are relevant, or what you don't want your employer to see. The tribunal will then decide what to do. If they think the information is relevant you'll have to give it to your employer. But they might try to make a compromise. For example, they might decide your employer should have the documents but with certain parts blacked out.

You may find it helpful to get advice on what documents you can ask for, the procedure, or responding to a request from your employer. You can get advice from your adviser or representative if you have one.

For details of other organisations that may be able to help you, see What help can I get with a problem at work.

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What should I do if I get an order or direction from the tribunal?

Orders or directions from the tribunal are instructions from the tribunal to do something, usually by a particular time.

Some tribunals will issue standard directions to both you and your employer to give each other certain information and documents within a time limit. You should always take these orders seriously and do what's asked within the time limit. If there's a reason why you can’t do this, write to the tribunal as soon as you can to explain why. If you don't carry out an order without a very good reason, you may have to pay costs, or even have your case struck out. This means that the tribunal won't let you carry on with your case.

If you're not sure what to do, get advice, for example from a Citizens Advice Bureau or a helpline.

You can find contact details for organisations that may be able to help you in What help can I get with a problem at work?

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Next steps

For the next steps in taking action about problems at work, see Understanding Acas and settlements and Preparing an employment tribunal case

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More about problems at work

For more information about how to sort out problems at work, see Sorting out problems at work.

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