Employment tribunals: Making a claim

There are strict time limits for starting a claim in an employment tribunal and procedures that must be adhered to

Workplace maternity discrimination: How to bring a claim in an employment tribunal

What you need to know before making an employment tribunal claim

Woman carrying box of office belongings

The law protects us against unfair treatment and dismissal because of pregnancy. Likewise, if after returning to work after maternity leave does not go to plan and you are being discriminated against or if you feel that your job conditions have changed you may want to make a complaint. 

You may be able to resolve the issue through a conversation with your line manager or, if this does not work, through the company’s HR team or grievance procedure. 

However, sometimes it can be more serious and needs outside assistance.

You can make a claim to an employment tribunal if you think your employer has treated you unlawfully - be it unfair dismissal or discrimination during pregnancy or  after returning work from maternity leave.

There are strict time limits for starting a claim in a tribunal - You usually have to make a claim to the tribunal within 3 months of your employment ending or the problem arising.

The tribunal is independent of government and will listen to you and the person you’re making a claim against before making a decision.

You must tell the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) that you intend to make a claim to the tribunal.

You’ll be offered the chance to try and settle the dispute without going to court by using Acas’s free ‘Early Conciliation’ service.

To make a claim you will need to fill out the application form ET1. This can be done online ( You can also get a claim form from the Employment Tribunal Enquiry Line (see below) or your local Citizens Advice Bureau. You have to provide your Early Conciliation certificate number on your tribunal claim form or the tribunal will reject the claim. You also need to pay the relevant tribunal issue fee when you submit the form unless you are applying for the fee to be waived.

The Employment Tribunal will send a copy of your ET1 to your employer who then fills out an ET3 form stating its version of events and any defence. You will receive a copy of this.

What happens at a tribunal?

You will be given a date for the hearing and the tribunal will listen to your side and that of your employer. Your employer will be able to ask you questions and you can question them if you do not agree with what they’ve said. You don’t have to have a lawyer but bear in mind your employer may have one. Many trade unions provide free legal advice and representation and will pay the tribunal fee.

Time you spend in early conciliation doesn’t affect the total time left to make a claim. If early conciliation doesn’t work, Acas will send you an early conciliation certificate - use this when you make a claim to the tribunal.

You may want to get help from Citizens Advice before making a claim  or the Equality Advisory and Support Service can help if your claim is about discrimination. 

Does it cost to take my case to tribunal?

Since July 2013, there had been upfront fees  of £1,200 to pursue an employment case for pregnancy, maternity or sex discrimination. In July 2017 however the Supreme Court rules that employment tribunal fees are unlawful and they have now been scrapped.

Useful contact numbers
Acas Telephone: 0300 123 1100 Textphone: 18001 0300 123 1100 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Employment Tribunal customer contact centre
Telephone: 0300 123 1024 (England and Wales); Telephone: 0141 354 8574 (Scotland); Textphone: 18001 0300 123 1024 (England and Wales; Textphone: 18001 0141 354 8574 (Scotland).

Employment tribunals: Making a claim