If a dispute reaches the point where an individual makes an employment-related tribunal claim, you can still avoid the expense and stress of a tribunal hearing by resolving the issue using various methods.
Help and advice
You could try contacting:
- a free advice service - such as Advice NI
- an employer's organisation - if you are a member
- a solicitor or other professional adviser - bear in mind that most of these organisations will charge for their services
Currently when a claim has been lodged with the Office of the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal (OITFET), a copy of the claim is sent to the Labour Relations Agency (LRA). The LRA will contact you to advise you of their conciliation services, which can help you resolve the dispute without the need to go to tribunal.
Following a change in employment law the LRA will provide a new Early Conciliation Service from 27 January 2020 to help resolve workplace disputes.
- are independent, so don't represent either you or the claimant
- have no power to impose a solution, or to judge the rights and wrongs of the case
- will simply try to help you and the claimant to reach a voluntary agreement to resolve the matter
See our page on LRA conciliation.
LRA arbitration is another alternative to an employment-related tribunal hearing. It covers most employment rights jurisdictions.
An independent arbitrator hears the case and delivers a legally binding decision in favour of one party. Arbitration is a voluntary process, available where both parties agree to sign up to the scheme.
The benefits of LRA arbitration include:
- a speedy, private, informal hearing
- no cross-examination
- limited grounds for review of the arbitrator's decision
Arbitration will generally be less costly and stressful than an employment-related tribunal and, because it is carried out in private, will not attract publicity.
If it is agreed to go to arbitration, it will no longer be possible for an employment-related tribunal to deal with the issue.
See our page on the LRA Arbitration Scheme.
The LRA offers a mediation service which is a more informal way of resolving workplace disputes. It involves a neutral mediator helping you and the employee reach an agreement. The process is voluntary and confidential.
For more information, see LRA mediation.
A compromise agreement is a legally binding agreement offering the employee compensation in exchange for not bringing - or for withdrawing - a tribunal claim.
Reaching such an agreement will generally be quicker and will not attract the publicity that might arise by going to a tribunal to resolve a dispute.
For a compromise agreement to be valid, the employee must receive advice from a relevant independent legal adviser before signing. The employer is usually expected to pay the legal fees of both parties. You may find this to be a cheaper option than defending a long tribunal case, as even if you win you will generally have to pay your own legal costs - which can be significant.
Note that you can only use a compromise agreement to settle the immediate complaint(s) - the agreement cannot be worded to cover every single employment rights claim that the claimant could possibly bring in the future.