Completing your ET1
The ET1 is the form you complete when you begin your claim. It sets out the reasons you are complaining to the Tribunal. So in an unfair dismissal case, you must explain why you think your dismissal was unfair; in a discrimination claim, you must explain the incidents you believe amount to discrimination.
This seems straightforward enough. But there are two common mistakes. The first is to give too much detail, in an unstructured form, so that key facts get buried. This makes it difficult for the Tribunal to work out exactly what you say happened. In contrast the employer normally submits a carefully structured ET3, with legal help, which concentrates on the facts the employer thinks are important and presents them in the way most helpful to its case.
The Tribunal judges normally read the ET1 and ET3 just before they begin the case, but not very long before. In the short time available, they may be drawn to the employer’s comprehensible, coherent and legally persuasive account rather than your rambling 20 page ET1. And this is means you start the case on the back foot, having to convince the Tribunal that you have a good case.
The second risk is that you miss out important facts because you don’t realise that the Tribunal will want to know them. If you try and raise these facts later, the employer’s representative may suggest that you made them up, in order to strengthen your claim.
So, unless the issue is very straightforward – such as being racially abused by your boss – it is worth getting some legal help at this early stage if you can. There are various sources of free advice (see Getting Advice); or if you can afford it, you might want to pay an employment lawyer for a few hours’ work.
Anne is a visiting professor in law at King’s College, London, and a volunteer at FRU