Taking a Case

Taking A Case

To Tribunal

It is important that you comply with the early conciliation process.


Taking a case to tribunal is not always the best way of dealing with a dispute. It’s usually a good idea for you to try to sort out problems at work through discussion with colleagues and management.


You can find further information on the early conciliation process online here: www.lra.org.uk/early-conciliation

When considering whether to take a case to an Employment Tribunal, it’s important to check:

      • That the tribunal has the power to deal with the issue
      • The claim is sent to the tribunal within the appropriate time limit.

Starting a Tribunal Claim

If early conciliation has not resolved your claim and you wish to move to the tribunal process, you must have an early conciliation certificate number from the Labour Relations.

You’ll then need to complete a tribunal claim form from the Office of Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal (OITFET). https://www.employmenttribunalsni.co.uk/

You can complete the form online on the OITFET website. You will be expected to provide information about yourself, your employer and your complaint. Send the claim form to OITFET and they’ll send a copy to your employer.


Your employer has to
respond within 28 days.



Most tribunal claims must be made within three months of the incident, but
this can vary and will be subject to the early conciliation process.


Tribunals will only extend the time limit in exceptional
circumstances. As the tribunal can’t give advice, you may seek independent help if you’re not sure about a time limit.

When Your claim will go ahead

If the case goes ahead, ‘case management discussions’ can be held to clarify any issues. The
tribunal can also ask for further information from you or your employer if they’re unclear
about the claim.

Settling the issue before a hearing

You can usually withdraw your complaint at any time before the hearing. The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free and impartial conciliation to you and your employer.

Where a settlement through conciliation doesn’t seem likely, the LRA can also advise you of the possibility of resolving a dispute.

If you and your employer agree to this, an independent person will make a decision on the dispute without the need for a tribunal.


Try and settle your claim before going to the tribunal as you may not win.

Getting Help

If you’re a member of a trade union, they may pay for a solicitor. Some household insurers pay reasonable legal costs, but check your policy documents. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/contacts/equality-commission-northern-ireland) may be able to help if you are claiming that discrimination has taken place.

Labour Relations Agency

We provide an impartial and confidential employment relations service to those engaged in industry, commerce and the public services.

Law Centre Northern Ireland

At Law Centre NI, protecting people and their rights is at the heart of everything we do.

Ulster University Law Clinic

Law students offer free legal advice and, where appropriate, representation to the public on social security and employment law problems.

What Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal do

They’re less formal than some other courts, but you still give evidence on oath and if you do not tell the truth you can be accused of perjury.

If, following the early conciliation process, you have made an application to:

  • An Industrial Tribunal
  • Fair Employment Tribunal

then you will have a hearing.


At the hearing a Tribunal panel will review the facts of your case and decide an outcome called a ‘judgment’.

Cases are usually heard by a panel of three people:

  • A legally qualified chairperson
  • Two ‘lay members’ (one with an employer backgroundand one with an employee background.)

The lay members use their employment experience in judging the facts. In some circumstances, the chairperson will sit on their own when hearing any legal arguments for example.

There is no charge for making a claim at either tribunal. So unless you are paying a representative, like a solicitor there is no cost in making a claim.