Do I need representation?

A growing number of litigants have no choice but to represent themselves in the employment tribunal. It is almost always the claimant who is unrepresented, while the employer benefits from legal representation. Larger employers often arrive with a solicitor and a barrister.

It is, in theory, possible to represent yourself in an employment tribunal without suffering a disadvantage. The tribunal judge is supposed to take reasonable steps to address the imbalance between the two sides. However there are very definite limits to the assistance on offer from the tribunal judge, and in practice, litigants in person are often left significantly worse off than their represented opponents.

It is much better to be represented. You don’t necessarily need representation by a solicitor or barrister (the substantial costs of which cannot usually be recovered from the other side). Full-time union officers are very experienced in taking cases to tribunals.

Employment tribunal hearings are open to the public and it is a good idea to sit in and listen to someone else’s claim being heard while preparing for your own, to give you a better idea of what to expect – even if you are going to be represented.

Although costs awards (orders that a litigant pay some or all of the costs of their opponent) are still quite rare in the employment tribunal, claimants (many of whom are unrepresented) are far more likely than employers to be ordered to pay costs.

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.