employment tribunal

Any of the bodies established under the UK employment protection legislation to hear disputes between employers and employees or trade unions relating to statutory terms and conditions of employment. For example, the tribunals hear complaints concerning unfair dismissal, redundancy, equal pay, and maternity rights Tribunals may also hear complaints from members of trade unions concerning unjustifiable disciplining by their union. The tribunal usually consists of a legally qualified chairperson and two independent lay members; they are appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. It differs from a civil court in that it cannot enforce its awards (this must be done by separate application to a court) and it can conduct its proceedings informally. Strict rules of evidence need not apply and the parties can present their own case or be represented by anyone they wish at their own expense; legal aid is not available. The tribunal has wide powers to declare a party in breach of a contract of employment, to award compensation, and to order the reinstatement or re-engagement of a dismissed employee. Until 1998 employment tribunals were known as industrial tribunals.

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