Most workplace disputes between employees and their employer can be resolved informally and internally.
However, in some instances, you may feel issues remain unresolved even after a formal grievance procedure has been concluded and that you have no choice but to take legal action against your employer.
This could be in relation to all kinds of employment matters, from unlawful deduction of wages to unlawful discrimination. It may even be that your employment has been unlawfully terminated, or you have felt forced to resign following unfair treatment at work, and are now looking to bring a claim for unfair, wrongful or constructive dismissal.
In this guide for employees, we explain the procedure to follow when issuing a claim in the employment tribunal, in particular, how to complete the initial ET1 form to start your claim. We also look at some of the other important forms that you will come across during this process.
What is the ET1 form?
To be able to bring a claim before an employment tribunal, as the prospective claimant you will first need to complete and submit an ET1 form. This is the prescribed form in which a claimant is required to set out the basis of their complaint against the employer.
An ET1 form could be used to detail any one of a number of different employment disputes, including issues over pay, such as redundancy, notice, holiday or arrears. It could also be used to allege unfair treatment amounting to unlawful discrimination or unfair dismissal, or both.
An ET1 form can be submitted in one of two ways: online or by post, although submitting a claim online is the quickest way of lodging your complaint with the tribunal. If you are close to any deadline date, where there are strict time limits for issuing a tribunal claim, using the online version of the ET1 form will be best. For example, for a claim for unfair dismissal, a claim must usually be made within 3 months less 1 day from the date your employment was brought to an end. If you send the form by post and it is delivered after the deadline it will count as late, so you must always check that the tribunal has received your form in time.
A link to the online ET1 form can be found at GOV.UK. Equally, the paper version of the ET1 form can be downloaded and printed off. This can then be completed by hand and posted to the relevant central office, although you should make a copy of the form for your own records.
You should normally receive confirmation of receipt from the office dealing with your claim within 5 working days. Importantly, the tribunal will not accept your claim unless it is made using either the online or paper ET1 form, as prescribed by HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
What does the ET1 form ask?
The ET1 form is a crucial document within the employment tribunal process. This is where you will set out the summary of your claim, together with an outline of the allegations you are making against your employer, among other things. The online and postal versions of the ET1 form have slight variations but, in either case, the requested information will include:
- Your personal details: including your full name, date of birth, home address, telephone and/or mobile number, any email address and how you would prefer to be contacted.
- Whether you can take part in a tribunal hearing via video link: some tribunal hearings can be held remotely, although this will require internet access, where you must indicate your willingness to participate in a remote hearing if one is arranged. Hearings can be held either in person, or by phone or video, although final hearings will usually be in person.
- Your employer’s name, address and telephone number: the employer is described as the respondent in the ET1 form. They are the person or organisation against whom you are making a claim, where they must ‘respond’ to the allegations made against them.
- Any ACAS early conciliation certificate number: before issuing a claim you will be required to notify the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) of your intention to issue tribunal proceedings, and whether or not you would like to engage in early conciliation. If early conciliation does not go ahead, or this does not lead to a settlement agreement, you will be given an early conciliation certificate number to enable you to issue your ET1 form.
- The reason for not having an ACAS early conciliation certificate number, if applicable: in some cases, you may be exempt from the requirement to go through the early conciliation notification process, for example, where your employer got in touch with ACAS first.
- The details of any other claimants: if you are aware that your claim is one of a number of claims against your employer arising from the same or similar circumstances, these details will allow the tribunal to link your claim to other related claims to save time and money. To make a claim with other people, you will need to use the ET1A form when submitting your claim by post, although only one of you will need to complete the form.
- Your employment details: this will include your start date, whether you are continuing to work for your employer, or any end date or notice period end date.
- Your pay and benefits: these details should include your pay, both before and after tax, together with details of any occupational pension and benefits.
- Any current employment: if your employment has ended, you should provide details of any alternative job role and level of earnings.
- The type and details of your claim: this could be, for example, about pay, dismissal or discrimination, where the form will ask you to specify the nature of the claim, such as the type of discrimination being alleged against your employer. You will also be required to provide a description, including the background, dates and people involved, giving sufficient detail so that the tribunal and respondent can understand what your claim is about.
- The nature of any remedies sought: if your claim is successful, you will need to specify your preferred outcome, for example, compensation, your job back (reinstatement), another job with the same or associated employer (re-engagement), or even a recommendation from the tribunal that your employer takes action to prevent the problem from happening again.
- Details of any legal or other representative: this should include the name and contact details of anyone representing you, if you have a representative.
- Details of any disability: this refers to any disability which means you require assistance at the tribunal hearing, such as needing documents in Braille or a sign language interpreter.
What is the ET3 form?
Having submitted the ET1 form setting out the basis of your claim, as the respondent to the proceedings your employer will be given the opportunity to respond in writing using the ET3 form. This is the document in which the respondent is required to set out a summary of their defence to the allegations made against them. Once a claim has been submitted, the tribunal will send the employer a ‘response pack’. This will include a copy of your ET1 form, and provide a copy of an ET3 for the employer, or their representative, to complete.
If your employer fails to respond, or to respond within the prescribed timeframe of 28 days from the date the tribunal sent the response pack, a tribunal judge may make a decision in your favour without the need for a hearing. This is known as entering default judgment. However, if the employer does respond in time, and they have indicated that they wish to defend all or part of the claim, the matter will then proceed as a disputed case.
Your employer will be required to file their ET3 form with the court, but you will receive a copy. The tribunal will also let you both know the next steps of the claim process. You will be able to submit witness statements and documentation to substantiate your claim in due course, although the ET1 and ET3 forms will provide the foundation of the claim and defence.
What happens once the ET1 and ET3 have been lodged?
Once your employer has responded to your ET1 form using the ET3 form and, based on their version of events, some or all of your claim remains in dispute, these forms will be put before a tribunal judge to decide whether or not the case requires a preliminary hearing.
The tribunal judge may issue a case management order containing standard directions, together with time limits for compliance. These directions will be designed to help both you and your employer prepare for a final hearing. This will typically include disclosure of any relevant documents, such as your employment contract, pay slips or minutes of meetings. It will also cover exchange of witness statements and who will be responsible for creating the bundle of documents to be used at the hearing. The tribunal will set a timetable for completion of these tasks, together with a window or date for the case to be heard.
If your claim is especially complex, for example, where you have made allegations of discrimination, a preliminary hearing may be necessary. This will help the tribunal judge to identify and narrow the issues involved, for example, whether or not you are suffering from a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. You should receive a tribunal letter notifying you of the date of the hearing and explaining in advance what will be discussed.
What is the Early Conciliation Notification form?
Prior to issuing a claim, you will be required to complete an Early Conciliation Notification form. This is an online form to notify ACAS of your intention to issue tribunal proceedings, and indicating whether or not you would like to engage in their early conciliation process. Early conciliation is a free-to-use dispute resolution procedure designed to facilitate settlement. If you agree to this, your case will be assigned to an ACAS conciliator who will then contact your employer to see if they are also willing to take part in talks.
However, ACAS early conciliation is not a mandatory process. If you would like to explore early conciliation, but your employer does not agree to engage in this process, they cannot be forced to do so, and vice versa. Equally, if any attempts at early conciliation fail, ACAS will simply issue an early conciliation certificate, providing you with a unique reference number to enable you to submit your ET1 form, if you still want to proceed. This number will confirm that you have complied with the mandatory requirement to notify ACAS of your intention to issue a claim, and either that agreement could not be reached to engage in early conciliation or any attempts to resolve the dispute with your employer through early conciliation have failed.
In circumstances where early conciliation has been attempted, but an agreement could not be reached, the tribunal will not be privy to these discussions. The process of early conciliation is entirely confidential, where ACAS is independent of the employment tribunal.
However, you will be given a maximum period of 6 weeks to explore the possibility of settlement, during which time the ACAS conciliator will liaise between you and your employer via telephone to see what agreement can be reached, but without taking sides. This will ‘stop the clock’ on the period within which you will need to lodge your ET1 form. This means that, provided you have submitted the Early Conciliation Notification form prior to expiry of the deadline for submitting your claim, the time limit for lodging the ET1 will be put on hold.
If agreement is reached with your employer, the terms of that agreement will be drawn up by the ACAS conciliator in a COT3 form. Once signed, you will no longer be able to lodge the ET1 form to issue a tribunal claim about the same dispute and your case will be closed. However, as a legally binding document, your employer must comply with the terms of the COT3 form, for example, by paying any agreed compensation or providing you with a reference.
ET1 Form FAQs
What is a ET1 form?
An ET1 form is a document in which a claimant is required to set out the basis of their claim against an employer. This could be for a range of different employment disputes, including issues over pay, dismissal or discrimination.
What happens when you submit an ET1?
Having submitted an ET1 form, setting out the basis of your claim, your employer will be required to respond within 28 days of receiving that form, using an ET3 form to set out a summary of their response.
How long do I have to submit an ET1?
There are time limits for submitting tribunal claims, depending on the type of complaint. For example, for an unfair dismissal claim, the ET1 must usually be lodged within 3 months less 1 day from the date employment was terminated.
What is an ET2 form?
An ET2 form is a notice of claim issued by the employment tribunal advising the employer of the date that they need to file their completed response using the ET3 form. This will be sent together with a blank ET3.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.