Watching my first Tribunal!

I'm visiting the nearest Tribunal tomorrow to watch my first ET which looks like it could be an interesting one. This has been recommended to me as a good career building move in the past - anybody done this before for the experience? Any tips on making it most worthwhile?

  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    5 Mar, 2018 15:28

    Great post, Sam. I've never witnessed one myself. Planning inquiries... well, that's another story...
  • Hi,

    I did this a few years ago with a previous employer, went to the local ET and took our chances on the case - got someone who was claiming unfair dismissal from a well known restaurant chain who had fired him because they believed he had been stealing from the till. Didn't get to see the full resolution but saw the claimant on the stand.

    There's a lot of legal speak, each side referring to 'my learned friend' which just makes the dialogue a bit harder to follow. There will be lots of referring to the evidence bundle which you won't have sight of, you just have to accept there will be information you won't be party to, won't necessarily make it less interesting.

    Finally, remember you're in a court of law - dress appropriately, only leave the room at the allotted break times, turn your phone off and follow all instructions - the panel chair may well address anyone in public attendance to make sure you know what's allowed.

    Have fun!
  • In reply to Andrea :

    Thanks Andrea - I'll be suited and booted tomorrow for sure.

    I'll let you know how it goes, the case is racial discrimination, unfair dismissal, and victimisation due to race according to the listings. Respondent is a solicitor, which will be interesting!
  • Ah, you will enjoy it, but do be prepared for them to settle outside of the Tribunal before it starts. This does happen quite a bit and is frustrating if you are there to observe.

    I watched one as part of my CIPD course. Quite a few of us went and i did feel slightly sorry for the employer who caught sight of our grimaces as he tried to argue that he didn't have to pay a contractual bonus to an employee if he didn't want to because he was the boss and could do what he wanted to do.

    Unsurprisingly, the claimant won!

    I have since attended a couple as an employer called witness and one actually presenting the employers case (they let me have a go as it was relatively low cost if we lost), which was a fabulous experience (we won)

    Hope you enjoy it
  • In reply to Teresa:

    Hi Sam

    Expect a lot of quizzical looks, even stares - these things are rarely like a big law court, so a stranger in their midst might attract speculation about the reason for your visit (even though of course you are very much entitled to be there).

    Hope you find it useful and even enjoyable!
  • Hi Sam

    I’d be very interested to hear your reactions after your visit. Please come back and tell us what you thought were the most striking features.
  • Hope you enjoy it. I'm sure you will. As a part of my job once, I used to visit the local magistrates court on a regular basis- great fun and quite instructive. Its held me in good stead over the years and I've had a few pints for the stories that have come out of those visits and to the handful of ET's I've attended as a witness too.
  • In reply to David:

    Thanks for the tip David!
  • In reply to Elizabeth Divver:

    I will certainly feed back.
  • In reply to Sam:

    I suspect that you would have only had a snapshot as most discrim claims takes at least 3 days and sadly many UD claims last for 2 days so the good old days of going and finding something you can watch from beginning to end have largely gone. My advice would be to see the Clerk, explain what you are doing and ask their advice on which case to sit in on.
  • In reply to Peter Stanway:

    Yeah, I did think that would be slightly irritating. I'll certainly speak to the Clerk when I get there.
  • I hope you enjoy it. They are really interesting. I find them fascinating. I often read ET decisions while eating my lunch. You can get them sent to you email account. I am constantly stunned at how companies and individuals behave! They also give an interesting insight as to how an ET judge's mind works which i think is helpful when dealing with ER issues.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    6 Mar, 2018 11:38

    In reply to Laura Ann:

    "I am constantly stunned at how companies and individuals behave!"

    You and me, both! ;)

  • I hope you have an enjoyable experience Sam. I'd advise about taking notes and trying to follow the arguments. Have you looked at the background of those attending?

    My main piece of advice is that ET's are a small part of HR. Or should be. Most employment disputes don't end up at ET and worrying about doing so too much, can impact on the HR service you provide. Most employees want to resolve things amicably and whilst it's important to be aware of the law, creating a culture and way of working that means such events are rare.
  • In reply to Ruth :


    Quote from the great Sander Meredeen who delivered the industrial relations and employment law programme of my (in those days) IPM-sponsored Post-graduate Diploma in Personnel Management at the LSE in 1978.

    "Having recourse to legal process means that companies and/or their employees have chosen to discard the principle of mutual trust on which solid employment relationships must be constructed".

    I committed this to memory, and used it many times when training line managers in the area of employment laws. 

    In my experience, 99.99% of the time it really is possible to find a mutual accomodation, and the art is in finding ways to help both parties (generally senior management and ex-employee) see that this will be better than spending time and money on litigation.