Where do I make a claim?

It is sometimes difficult to know where to pursue a claim. The rule of thumb is to check first to see whether the problem is covered by the list of issues dealt with by employment tribunals.

You can make a claim at an employment tribunal under several categories. For example, if your boss reduced your wages without your consent, and then sacked you without notice when you complained on the grounds that you were black and he or she didn't like black people, you could claim unauthorised deduction from wages, unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, direct race discrimination and victimisation.

Although there is almost always some kind of claim that can be brought (even if it's the standard breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence), some issues can be harder to categorise.

Consider bullying. On its own, there isn't always a practical course of action. However, if the bullying is connected to the victim's gender, it could form the basis of a tribunal claim for sex discrimination or harassment.

You can also sometimes rely on the implied duty in your contract of employment for your employer to provide a healthy and safe working environment. For example, if you are constantly being picked on by an aggressive line manager for no obvious reason, and your formal grievance against the line manager has been ignored or not been dealt with appropriately, then you can bring an action in either the County or High Court (depending on the level of compensation you wish to claim).

Such cases are usually very complex and you are advised to seek help from an expert legal adviser. A trade union will have expertise in assessing your problem and looking for redress in the right place. If you are not a union member, you could take independent legal advice – perhaps from your local Citizens Advice or Law Centre. However, if you have no support from a trade union, you are likely to face considerable legal costs.

You cannot pursue the same claim in two courts simultaneously, even where they both have jurisdiction on such matters (the term 'court' here includes employment tribunals). Nor can you bring a claim again in another forum, after you have lost it in the first type of court – except where you are appealing the judgement upwards to a higher court.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.