Educate yourself on the law and procedure relating to an unfair dismissal claim
Either contact a qualified legal adviser or get hold of the resources that will allow you to sufficiently educate yourself to get you through your unfair dismissal claim. Tamara Lewis’ “Employment law: an adviser’s handbook” is highly recommended, as is Naomi Cunningham & Michael Reed’s “Employment Tribunal Claims: Tactics and Precedents” (obviously the latest editions in both cases). Buy the books through this website, they retain a bit more of the money for each copy (and they’re worth it).
For more in-depth points (although it’s debatable whether you should be handling your claim yourself if you have to delve more deeply into specific legal issues!) get hold of a copy of Selwyn’s “Law of Employment” textbook. It’s excellent.
P.S. there are more web-based resources (such as Naomi Cunningham & Michael Reed’s invaluable www.etclaims.co.uk and Naomi Lewis’ excellent series of publications on discrimination questionnaires at the Central London Law Centre).
Don’t miss the limitation date for your unfair dismissal claim
Absolutely. Critical. If you don’t get your ET1 to the Employment Tribunal before your limitation date then you’ll experience serious difficulties in pursuing your claim at all (you’ll have to demonstrate a good reason as to why it wasn’t reasonably practical for you to hand in your claim before). If you can’t fill in your claim form with sufficient detail prior to the limitation date just get a copy in and apply to the Employment Tribunal for permission to amend the claim after the acknowledgment’s been received. A “prototype” claim is better than no claim. Plus it avoids all the hassle of potentially having to go through a Pre Hearing Review.
N.B. The limitation period for an unfair dismissal claim is three months less one day from the date of the termination of your contract of employment.
Fill out your ET1 claim form with as much detail as possible
Don’t underestimate this one. If you fail to fill out your ET1 form properly then it will not be accepted and will be sent back to you by the Employment Tribunal. If you handed your ET1 in on or close to the limitation date this will cause you severe problems as you may fall outside of the limitation period before you’re informed that your ET1 wasn’t accepted. Further, it’s a well-known secret that Employment Judges have very little time to read the papers before an interlocutory or full (merits or remedy) hearing. They may even only have time to read the ET1. Putting the factual and legal details of your claim down in a succinct form in your ET1 (or Particulars of Claim if you prefer) can really help the Judge to understand the factual and legal issues you’re pleading. And if you’re helping the Judge you’re certainly helping yourself.
Keep the legal issues simple – don’t throw in anything you can possibly think of
It may appear at first that there’s a slight contradiction with point 3 here. However, don’t panic – there isn’t. You want to get all the relevant facts down in your ET1, not just any old facts you can think of. The Judge isn’t interested in whether Bob had a burger for lunch the day you were dismissed, he’s interested in the facts relevant to your dismissal. Further, don’t plead every single legal issue that you can possibly think of. This will not help you. If there are no credible issues that fall under the Working Time Regulations, don’t just throw it in because it makes your claim look more substantial. Keep the legal issues to the points that are relevant and winnable!
Try and get your Schedule of Loss right
If you’re pursuing your unfair dismissal claim yourself then it’s forgivable if you make some mistakes on your Schedule of Loss. It can be complicated, especially when you get to areas such as the contractual benefits of company cars, bonuses and commissions.
Get your calculations for your basic award right. This is done with reference to a simple formula which takes into account your gross weekly salary (max £430 at the moment), your age, and how many years service you’ve had with your employer.
Regarding your compensatory award, this is slightly more complex. Calculate your losses up to the date of the Tribunal hearing (accounting for mitigation if you’ve found a new job) and include future losses past the date of the Tribunal for a period of between three months and one year, depending on the circumstances.
Make sure that you include all relevant documents in your disclosure – it may not be possible to later!
As in point 4 above, don’t just chuck in any old document – make sure that the documents that you’re including in your list of disclosure are relevant to the case. Further, try and take out duplicate documents. Irrelevant and duplicate documents not only confuse both yourself and the Respondent (“am I referring to the exhibit at page 52 or page 400?!”) but will (note, will) annoy the Employment Judge at any hearing. Getting the Employment Judge on your side (or not not getting the Employment Judge on your side) is at least some of the battle.
Try and get as many witnesses to give evidence in your favour at the Employment Tribunal as possible
Simple equation: more witnesses in your favour = greater chance of winning your Employment Tribunal claim. However, ensure that the evidence that your witnesses (and yourself, you’re going to be a witness) give is true. Any decent counsel will exploit inconsistencies or deceit and this can undermine your whole case. If you go in and tell the truth then the Employment Tribunal is bound to empathise with you – they’re human after all.
If possible try and construct the hearing bundle yourself. Familiarity with this can give you an advantage at the Employment Tribunal hearing
This is something that I picked up from Cunningham & Reed’s Employment Tribunal Practice and Procedure and it really works. Constructing the bundle for the Employment Tribunal hearing gives you two advantages: you are familiar with it (it’s your baby) and this familiarity will give you added confidence. However, constructing your bundle is only recommended if you have the necessary time and access to resources. Constructing a shoddy bundle because you don’t have the access to a printer that will allow you to print off 1,000 pages or because you just don’t have enough time will annoy the Employment Tribunal and may end up making you liable for costs if it means a hearing has to be abandoned.
Respond promptly to any correspondence from the Respondent or the Employment Tribunal – it can easily slip from your memory otherwise
This has two advantages: firstly, it will help you to get to your Employment Tribunal hearing quicker and will potentially sort out any outstanding legal issues before the date of the hearing. Secondly, it will give you a psychological advantage – you’ll feel on top of the case. The worst thing to do is hide from important correspondence because you feel you haven’t done your case justice.
Instruct a specialist employment law solicitor!
This may seem like the inevitable plug but specialist employment law solicitors are, well, specialists in the employment law and Employment Tribunal procedure. They can (and often do) really boost your chances of being successful in your unfair dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal. If you’re worried about costs many firms offer their services in the Employment Tribunal on a no win no fee basis (but of course that depends on the strength and value of your claim).
Anyway, good luck with your unfair dismissal claim and do yourself justice!