After the Employment Tribunal has received the ET3 document the tribunal will manage the case through the tribunal process toward a final hearing where a decision will be made on the case.
It will do this by issuing 'directions'. These will be in the form of a written document which sets out a timetable and will deal with:
All these stages will have deadlines applied by the tribunal for when they must be completed so the case is well prepared for the hearing.
The deadlines are important to observe - if they are not met then the tribunal may impose penalties such as awarding costs or even 'striking out' the claim.
The Employment Tribunal may enforce the orders that it has made by issuing further 'unless orders'. An unless order instructs a party to a tribunal case to do provide information or documents or take another step within a specified time period - if that is not done the tribunal may then consider whether the failure is penalised by striking out all or part of a claim.
Striking out a case or part of a claim is a serious step for the tribunal to take as the case will then be dismissed and the party will not be able to proceed with their case.
If a tribunal considers striking out a claim for failure to comply with an unless order they will need to decide if there has been 'material non-compliance' with the terms of the unless order:
If the case is likely to be complex or there are some issues that need to be decided before a final hearing then the Employment Tribunal may organize a hearing which is called a Preliminary Hearing.
This hearing is to organize the preparation of the case and allow the tribunal to make appropriate directions. The tribunal can also decide some issues which may whether the case, or some parts of it, can proceed such as employment status or whether the claim was brought within the right time limit.
A Preliminary Hearing for case management
A hearing which is only about case management can be done either in a hearing at the tribunal or often they will be done by telephone. Either way the tribunal will want understand what the case is about and how the parties intend to prepare it so you should be prepared to explain
A Preliminary Hearing to decide an issue
If the preliminary hearing is intended to decide part of the case then a notice will be given by the tribunal explaining which issue will be decided and setting a date for a hearing in front of the tribunal.
This sort of hearing is more formal and may require evidence to be presented from witnesses and the relevant documents to be available for the tribunal.