Don’t forget the lay members

If you’re new to employment tribunal practice, it can be tempting to think that the person who matters is the legally qualified chairman who sits in the middle of the tribunal table and presides over the hearing, and to overlook the other two members (the ‘lay members’ as they are called). This is a mistake. The thing to remember about the lay members is that there are two of them. That is – to labour the point – twice as many as there are Chairmen. In other words, the lay members can, and sometimes do, outvote the Chairman.

So if you are giving evidence or making submissions, try to address your answers to all 3 members of the tribunal, and make occasional eye-contact with each of them. Try to make a mental note of their names. If you want to refer to a question asked by one of them of a witness, it will be awkward (and obvious) if you can’t remember their name – and they are likely to feel overlooked. And if a lay member asks a question that makes it clear that they have misunderstood the evidence or the law, don’t snub or patronise them – just explain.

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