Five tough feelings you may encounter during the Employment Tribunal process (and why they are normal)
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Representing yourself at Employment Tribunal can be an emotional process, especially for litigants in person who need to cover off everything from the legal arguments to collating evidence and filing letters. We’ve spoken to many litigants in person and here are the key emotions that people tell us about as they go through the process.
In the early stages, it’s normal to feel shocked - your employer has done something that you think is illegal, and that’s a big violation of trust. You might feel disbelief, dazed and like you can’t properly process what’s happened. That’s totally normal and this feeling won’t last - during this period, it’s important to write down every conversation you’ve had as it may be harder to remember them afterwards.
Once the shock wears off, people often feel angry, sometimes intensely angry. That is okay! Anger is a normal response to a violation of trust and the law, and you can use your anger as a positive force to help give you energy as you raise your grievance and file your claim.
It’s also normal to feel angry with the Employment Tribunal process itself - many people tell us that in the early stages, they’re frustrated that they have to jump through so many hoops when they feel it’s obvious that the employer acted illegally. The Tribunal has to give each side a fair chance to tell their side of the story and provide evidence before it can make a decision - it’s important to understand that this can take time.
Representing yourself in an Employment Tribunal will throw up lots of natural doubts - this is a new process that you’ve never been through before, it’s complicated and it requires you to deconstruct your experiences and craft them into a legal argument.
These doubts are normal and you’re not alone in them - here is a sample of the kinds of doubts people have told us about as they went through the process - remember that everyone has them:
- “Am I making a big deal out of nothing?”
- “Can I really do this on my own?”
- “Do I need to get a law degree to do this?”
Many litigants in person tell us that they felt lonely during the Employment Tribunal process - they didn’t have a lawyer that could support them day-to-day, and it’s hard to talk about the ins and outs of a Tribunal case with friends and family who don’t understand all the details.
There are places online where you can compare notes with other litigants in person - Valla has set up a community of litigants in person that you can join for free as well as ongoing monthly support group meetings, and the Access to Justice foundation has many types of support for litigants in person. You are not alone in this!
Finally, when you settle or your case is resolved, you may have a feeling of anticlimax - very few cases finish with a heartfelt apology from the employer that acknowledges the hurt and anguish that you had to go through. Even a judgment in your favour might be delivered in cold, legal language that can take some time to sink in. It’s okay to have an emotional need for validation and to feel a bit cold from the official outcomes - you can still reach out to your community or friends and family to help you work through the outcome of the case and get some of that closure that you need.
Stay on top of your case
Valla can help you stay on top of things as you work through the stages of an Employment Tribunal case - use Valla to organise your evidence, collate your timeline, keep track of documents and communications and share your case with others. Sign up for free today.