Equality Commission for Northern Ireland Frequently Asked Questions Lodging a Claim at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair Employment by spx12209

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									                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland


                     Frequently Asked Questions

 Lodging a Claim at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair Employment
                             Tribunal


1.    When should I make a claim at the Industrial Tribunal or the
      Fair Employment Tribunal?

2.    How do I make a claim at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair
      Employment Tribunal?

3.    What should I write in my claim form?

4.    What is a Tribunal?

5.    How long will it take for my case to be heard?

6.    What are the time limits for making a claim?

7.    What happens when the claim form is lodged?

8.    What will the Respondent have to do after the claim is lodged?

9.    What happens next at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair
      Employment Tribunal?

10.   Can I get assistance from the Equality Commission?

11.   Can I get legal aid to bring a claim to the Tribunals?

12.   Can I change my mind after I have lodged my claim?

13.   Will I have to pay costs at the Tribunals if I lose my case?

14.   Where can I get more advice?

15.   If I make a claim at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair
      Employment Tribunal will it be confidential?

16.   I have a disability/special needs. Can the Industrial Tribunal or
      the Fair Employment Tribunal assist me?

17.   What if my employer treats me less favourably because I have
      lodged a claim?



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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland




                    Frequently Asked Questions

      Lodging a Claim at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair
                     Employment Tribunal


1.    When should I make a claim at the Industrial Tribunal or
      the Fair Employment Tribunal?

      If you believe you have been discriminated against at work or
      when you have applied for a job then you may be able to take
      your employer or prospective employer to a tribunal. It can be
      unlawful for an employer or prospective employer to treat you
      less favourably than someone else because of your age, race,
      sex, married status, sexual orientation, religious belief or
      political opinion or because you have a disability.

      However, before you do so, you should consider whether you
      need to use your employer’s grievance procedure. In most
      cases, if you fail to use, or complete the grievance procedure
      the Tribunal can reduce any award of compensation by up tp
      50%.

2.    How do I make a claim at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair
      Employment Tribunal?

      You should first complete the Claim Form and return it to the
      Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment
      (OITFET). The Office is based at:

      Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal
      Killymeal House
      2 Cromac Quay
      Ormeau Road
      Belfast, BT7 2JD

      You can also obtain claim forms from OITFET, the Job Market,
      the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, or your local
      Citizens Advice Bureau.




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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland


      The Tribunal will only accept applications on the correct form.

      You do not have to pay a fee or charge in order to lodge a
      claim at the Tribunal.

3.    What should I write in my claim form?

      You should set out full details of the grounds of your complaint
      on the claim form. You should complete the form describing,
      in your own words, full details of all matters relating to the
      discrimination which you believe you have been subjected to.
      You should try to set out the details of your complaint in the
      order in which they actually occurred giving the relevant dates
      where possible. You cannot raise anything at a tribunal
      hearing that you have not included in your claim form.


4.    What is a Tribunal?

      The Industrial Tribunal and the Fair Employment Tribunal are
      independent judicial bodies which hear complaints of
      discrimination. The Tribunal is like a court but the proceedings
      are not as formal.

      Whether your case should go before an Industrial Tribunal or a
      Fair Employment Tribunal will depend on the type of complaint
      which you make.

      The Tribunal sits as a panel of three members with a legally
      qualified chairperson, an employer’s representative and an
      employee’s representative.

      The Tribunal is there to decide on your complaint and does not
      offer legal advice. Almost all tribunal hearings are open to the
      public. The overriding objective of the tribunals is to deal with
      cases justly, ensure the parties are on an equal footing, save
      expense and deal with cases promptly and fairly.

      In the Fair Employment Tribunal and the Industrial Tribunal it
      is up to you, the Claimant, to persuade the Tribunal that you
      have been subjected to unlawful discrimination.




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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland




5.    How long will it take for my case to be heard?

      Some cases take longer than others to be heard by the
      Tribunal. Delays can occur because the case is particularly
      complex or because the parties are trying to obtain full details
      of the case from each other. You should expect that your
      case will be heard by the Tribunal within between six and nine
      months from the date on which you made the claim.

6.    What are the time limits for making a claim?

      The time limit for bringing a claim before the Tribunal can be
      as short as three months from the date of the act you are
      complaining about. In order to be within the time limit, you
      should make a note of the date of the incident about which you
      are complaining. The last day on which you should lodge
      proceedings with the Tribunal will be three months after that
      date, minus one day.          For example, the act you are
      complaining about occurred on 2nd June 2005, the last day on
      which you can lodge a claim form will be 1st September 2005.
      It is advisable to lodge your proceedings promptly and not to
      wait until the last possible moment.


      If your time limit has expired the Tribunal has discretion to
      extend the time for you to lodge your claim; this is used
      sparingly and it is unwise to assume that an extension will be
      granted.


7.    What happens when the claim form is lodged?

      Once you have sent your claim form to the Tribunal you have
      started the legal proceedings. You should receive a letter of
      notification from the Office of the Industrial Tribunal and Fair
      Employment Tribunal (OITFET). The Tribunal will have
      allocated a case number to your application and you should
      quote this case number whenever you contact the Tribunal
      about your case or when you write to the employer about the
      case. If you have not had an acknowledgement from OITFET



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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland


      within two weeks of lodging your claim form you should
      contact:

            The Secretary of the Tribunals
            Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment
            Tribunal
            Killymeal House
            2 Cromac Quay
            Ormeau Road
            Belfast, BT7 2JD
            Tel: 028 9032 7666

      If you change your address you should notify the Tribunal to
      ensure that all important correspondence is sent to you. From
      this stage you will be described as the Claimant in the case
      and the employer will be described as the Respondent.

      In most cases the Tribunal will also send a copy of your claim
      form to the Labour Relations Agency (LRA). They will write to
      you and may attempt to resolve the dispute between you and
      the employer. You can find out more about the LRA at
      www.lra.org.uk

      Labour Relations Agency
      2-8 Gordon Street
      Belfast
      BT1 2LG
      Tel: 028 9032 1442

8.    What will the Respondent have to do after the claim is
      lodged?

      The Tribunal will contact the Respondent about the claim.
      Once the Tribunal has received your claim form, they will send
      a copy of it to the Respondent within five working days. The
      Tribunal will also send a Response Form to the employer.
      The Tribunal will require the Respondent to complete and
      lodge their response form within 28 days of notification of the
      claim. The response form is the document which replies to the
      claim form which you have sent to the Tribunal. The Tribunal
      requires the Respondent to provide certain information on the
      response form. The law states that the Respondent must
      provide the Tribunal with:


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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland



         - their full name and address;
         - whether they want to defend all or part of the claim;
         - the grounds on which they intend to defend the claim.

      If the Respondent does not include this required information
      then the response form will be returned. The Tribunal will
      continue to process your claim and may make a judgment in
      relation to your claim.

      A copy of the response form will be sent to you. You should
      examine this document carefully as this indicates how the
      Respondent intends to defend the claim which you have
      lodged. You may want to ask further questions or seek
      documents in light of what the Respondent has said on the
      response form.

9.    What happens next at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair
      Employment Tribunal?

      Once the Tribunal has received a claim form from you and a
      response form from the Respondent it will send you a standard
      form of directions. These are instructions relating to the case
      and tell you what you must do next. The directions should give
      you a timescale within which you must take certain actions.
      You should take care to comply with directions issued by the
      Tribunal. If you cannot comply with a particular direction, or
      think that you should not, you should make the Tribunal aware
      of this as soon as possible, but in any event within 14 days of
      receiving the directions. If the Tribunal does not hear any
      objection from you within this period, it will assume that you
      agree with the directions.

      The Tribunal may require you to attend a preliminary hearing
      or a directions hearing or a case management discussion
      before the actual hearing of your case. This is usually done to
      try to clarify issues between the parties and to decide when
      the case can be heard and how long it is likely to take. If the
      Tribunal writes to you asking you to attend such a hearing you
      should make sure that you attend as matters which are
      important to your claim will be discussed. Similarly, if the
      Tribunal or the Respondent writes to you seeking further
      information do not ignore these letters. You should reply to


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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland


      the letters and keep a copy of all letters you send and receive
      in relation to your claim. Please note that the content of such
      letters may be used at a future hearing.

10.   Can I get assistance from the Equality Commission?

      The Equality Commission will help you with advice and
      guidance on your rights under the law and will help you to
      prepare and lodge your claim. You can apply to the
      Commission for assistance by way of representation to take
      your case and, in some cases, the Commission will grant
      assistance to your case. This means that the Equality
      Commission will act as your legal representative

      The Equality Commission is a separate body from the
      Tribunal. If you have contacted the Commission about your
      case or applied for assistance this does not mean that you
      have lodged a claim with the Tribunal.


11.   Can I get legal aid to bring a claim to the Industrial
      Tribunal or the Fair Employment Tribunal?

      The Legal Services Commission of Northern Ireland does not
      grant legal aid to bring claims before the Tribunal. A solicitor
      may be able to provide with some preliminary advice on your
      case under the Green Form Scheme. This is means-tested
      and whether you get free preliminary advice will depend on
      your income.

12.   Can I change my mind after I have lodged my claim?

      Yes. You can withdraw your claim from the Tribunal. If you
      withdraw your claim at an early stage in the proceedings there
      is not usually any cost penalty. However, if you withdraw your
      claim at a very late stage in the proceedings, for example, just
      before the hearing, then you may be ordered to pay costs by
      the Tribunal.

13.   Will I have to pay costs at the Tribunals if I lose my case?

      Usually each party will pay their own costs regardless of the
      outcome of the case. The Tribunal may order you to make a


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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland


      payment towards        the     Respondent’s     costs   in   certain
      circumstances:

       If you have conducted your case in an unreasonable way
        by acting vexatiously, abusively or disruptively.

       You have brought a case which is misconceived.

      Similarly, if a Respondent acts unreasonably in the conduct of
      the case, for example, by telling you that you will have to pay
      costs if you continue with your claim, then the Tribunal may
      order the Respondent to pay costs. The maximum costs the
      Tribunal can award against a party are £10,000. In practice
      awards of costs are much lower than this and the Tribunal will
      take into account the Claimant’s ability to pay.

14.   Where can I get more advice?

      You can bring a claim to a Tribunal yourself without any legal
      representation. The Tribunal is experienced in dealing with
      Claimants who are representing themselves. You do not have
      to have a lawyer in order to make your claim. However, some
      of the rules relating to matters like time limits can be complex
      and confusing. If you need assistance in understanding these
      rules or other matters relating to your case you may be able to
      obtain legal advice from the following organisations:

      Equality Commission for NI
      Equality House
      7-9 Shaftesbury Square
      Belfast
      BT2 7DP
      Tel: 028 9050 0600

      Labour Relations Agency
      2-8 Gordon Street
      Belfast
      BT1 2LG
      Tel: 028 9032 1442

      Citizens Advice Bureaux
      Regional Office
      46 Donegall Pass

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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland


      Belfast
      BT7 1BS
      Tel: 028 9023 1120

      Law Centre (NI)
      24 Donegall Street
      Belfast
      BT1 2GY
      Tel: 028 9024 4401

      Northern Ireland Lawyers Pro Bono Unit
      The Bar Library
      91 Chichester Street
      Belfast
      BT1 3JQ
      Tel: 028 9056 2385


15.   If I make a claim at the Industrial Tribunal or the Fair
      Employment Tribunal will it be confidential?

      Information about claims made at the Tribunal is published in a
      register which is available to the public and the media. This
      register states the case reference number, the date the case
      was lodged, the name of the Claimant, the name of the
      Respondent, the type of case, the outcome and the date of the
      outcome.

      In very limited circumstances, for example, possibly in sexual
      harassment or sexual orientation cases, anonymity can be
      preserved.

16.   I have a disability/special needs. Can the Industrial
      Tribunal or the Fair Employment Tribunal assist me?

      If you or anyone going to a tribunal has a disability or a
      particular need, you should contact the Tribunal to discuss the
      matter. Examples of help the Tribunal can provide include
      converting documents to Braille or larger print, providing
      information on audio tape and paying for sign- or foreign
      language interpreters. You should contact the Tribunal as
      soon as possible so that they can help you.



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                                  Equality Commission for Northern Ireland


17.   What if my employer treats me less favourably because I
      have lodged a claim?

      The law that protects you from being discriminated against
      also protects you from being treated less favourably because
      you have done something in connection with that law. Less
      favourable treatment by your employer because you have, for
      example, lodged a claim against your employer is known as
      victimisation. If you are victimised by your employer, then this
      may give rise to a separate and fresh claim.


               Example: Frank gave evidence at the hearing
               of a colleague’s discrimination complaint against
               their employer. He subsequently applied for a
               promotion but despite being suitably qualified
               for the position, Frank is not shortlisted.

               If the reason for this treatment is that Frank
               was a witness in that case, then the
               employer’s failure to shortlist him may
               amount to victimisation.




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