How to sue your employer

Andrew Boast
5 min read
How to sue your employer: Explained by Employment Law Friend
The vast majority of legal claims against an employer arise in an employment tribunal, although it is also possible to sue an employer in the Courts. The Courts are used for personal injury claims, and also contract claims, as these can only be brought in tribunals if the contract of employment has ended and their value is less than £25,000.

To bring a claim in an employment tribunal it is necessary to:
  • get in an early conciliation certificate from ACAS, and
  • put in a claim at the tribunal itself.

In order to put in a claim, in almost all cases, you need to have a certificate from ACAS first.

How can I take legal action against my employer?

You can get an early conciliation certificate from ACAS by contacting them online and providing some basic details about your situation. The entire process should not take more than 5 minutes.

It is extremely important to start the process within three months less one day of whatever action you are claiming about. For example, if you were dismissed or did not receive your wages on 1 August, then the deadline for contacting ACAS is 31 October.

When contacting ACAS you are provided with an option as to whether or not you want to conciliate. Conciliate simply means that you are potentially interested in trying to negotiate with your employer or former employer to resolve the dispute rather than definitely going ahead with a claim to a tribunal.

You will be provided with a conciliator from ACAS who will liaise between you and your employer. Being willing to conciliate does not mean you have to have any direct contact with your employer, although if that is something both sides are happy with then, that is fine.

We strongly recommend that you always inform ACAS you want to conciliate. The reason for this is simple: it provides you with more time to put in your claim to the employment tribunal.

You may have good reasons for not wanting to conciliate or may know your employer will never be interested, but it is still worth ticking the box saying you want to conciliate because the final deadline for you to contact an employment tribunal will then be later.

If you state you do not want to conciliate you will immediately be emailed your ACAS certificate. If you say that you do want to conciliate (whether you actually do or not), then you will be contacted over the next week or two by a conciliator and asked for more details about why you want to bring a claim and any ideas you have about settlement. The conciliator will then contact your employer and seek their input too.

What happens after that depends. The conciliator can carry on negotiating with you and your employer for up to six weeks, at which point they will issue a certificate, or if it clear that the matter is not going to conciliate at this stage they might issue a certificate sooner than that. You will be emailed a “Certificate” with an ACAS number on it – you will need this number to put in a claim to an employment tribunal.

The deadline for putting in a claim to an employment tribunal once you have your ACAS conciliation certificate can be complex, but providing you contacted ACAS to start conciliation within three months less one day, it is always at least a full calendar month from the date of the certificate.

So if your ACAS certificate is dated 1 February, the deadline will be no earlier than 1 March. It is important to be aware that the deadline for contacting ACAS is three calendar months less one day from the incident but the deadline for then contacting the tribunal is at least a full calendar month. In both cases the cut off point is midnight.

To put in a claim to an employment tribunal, you need to fill in Form ET1

Although you can fill the entire claim online, it is advisable to have a word document prepared which sets out what you want to say and which you can upload and attach. Be aware that this will be read by a Judge, who knows nothing about you or what has happened.

Try to set things out chronologically, and ask someone who doesn’t know the situation to see if they can follow it. Also, be aware that tribunals can only do something about your employer breaking the law.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can take your employer to court for:

  • Rights to time of work
  • Breach of contract
  • Discrimination
  • Losing your job
  • Rights to pay and parental rights at work

Yes, you can sue your employer for unfair treatment, if the unfair treatment is classed as discrimination under The Equality Act. This includes harassment and victimisation.
Yes you can sue a company and still work for them. An example of this is if you were injured at work and your employer was at fault for it, this would mean you could claim compensation from your employer, as proper health and safety practices should already be enforced.

In some situations though, you would have to leave your job in order to sue. In cases of constructive dismissal, for example.
You can sue your employer for emotional distress, if it was caused by discrimination. This works as an 'injury to feelings' award which can be claimed within a discrimination case and some whistleblowing claims.

Do you need advice on how to sue your employer?

From knowing whether you have a legal case in the first place to planning a strategy for your final hearing or reviewing your settlement, get in contact with us and see how we can help.

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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