What should I do if I have a complaint?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to complain about.

If you wish to complain about HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), please follow the HMCTS complaints procedure (external link). Please also read “What you need to know about HMCTS” below.

If you wish to complain about a member of the judiciary of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales, you should write to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (external link) (JCIO). Any such complaint must be sent directly to the JCIO using their online complaints portal. The JCIO does not accept complaints by email. Please also read “What you need to know about the JCIO” below.

If you are unhappy with a judgment or decision reached by an Employment Tribunal, there is more information in the After the hearing section. Please also read the section How are cases decided? and scroll down to “How are Employment Tribunal decisions challenged?”

Please note that neither HMCTS nor the judiciary deals with complaints against professional legal representatives, such as solicitor, barristers and chartered legal executives.

The President receives a lot of correspondence from individuals wanting him to intervene in the decisions made in their case. However, it is not possible for him to do so. Please read “Can the President intervene in my case?” below.

If your case is ongoing, all queries about it should be sent to the Employment Tribunal office where it is being administered. You should provide your case number when doing so. (If your case number begins with a “6”, you should be able to contact the Employment Tribunal office through the online portal for your case.)

What you need to know about HMCTS

There is an important distinction between the judiciary and the civil servants who support the work of the judiciary. The judiciary of the Employment Tribunals are responsible for deciding the cases that come before them, whether in the form of judgments following hearings or in the form of decisions made on case management matters. In contrast, administrative support to the Employment Tribunals (just as with other court and tribunal jurisdictions) comes from HMCTS, which is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice.

The judiciary and HMCTS work alongside each other with the shared aim of ensuring the effective administration of justice. Judges, including the President and Regional Employment Judges, are not responsible for the actions of HMCTS.

HMCTS are responsible for matters such as: ensuring that case-related correspondence is responded to where appropriate; ensuring that such correspondence is brought to the attention of a judge where appropriate; ensuring that, where a judge has given instructions, those instructions are acted upon; serving ET1 claim forms; copying ET3 response forms to a claimant; providing clerking support during hearings; promulgating judgments and case management orders; and answering telephones.

What you need to know about the JCIO

The JCIO supports the Lord Chancellor and Lady Chief Justice in their joint responsibility for judicial discipline. Before you contact the JCIO, it may be helpful to explain the following.

First, the time limit for making a complaint is three months. It can only be extended in exceptional circumstances.

Second, the JCIO only deals with complaints of misconduct. A complaint does not contain an allegation of misconduct about a judge simply because a person is unhappy about something a judge has said or done. Accordingly, the JCIO will not accept a complaint if it is generalised, e.g. “I think the judge was rude because she said she didn’t believe my evidence” or “I think the judge was incompetent or dishonest because he has not accepted my submission“.

Third, complaints can only be accepted if they contain a specific allegation of behaviour that, if true, could result in a finding of misconduct. The list below contains examples of the more common types of correspondence and allegations received by the JCIO which do not fall within the remit of the judicial complaints procedure (they are instead matters for an appeal):

  • The terms of a judgment, decision or case management order reached by an Employment Judge or Employment Tribunal panel.
  • Bias in the decision-making of a judge or panel.
  • How a judge has managed a case, e.g., allowing one party to speak for longer than another, refusing to allow a witness to give evidence or admit certain documents, appearing to react more favourably to one person’s evidence than another’s, directing that a hearing take place in private, and what adjustments have or have not been made to enable a person to participate in a hearing.
  • A judge saying that they do not believe a person’s evidence, questioning a person’s credibility or honesty, or criticising a person’s actions.
  • A judge making an error of law or procedure.
  • A judge making an incorrect order or refusing to make an order.
  • A judge not reading documents before a hearing.
  • A judge declining to read all documents that are in the hearing bundle.
  • A judge reserving (or refusing to reserve) a case to themselves.
  • A judge recusing (or refusing to recuse) themselves from a hearing.
  • A judge refusing to correspond with a party about a case, or drawing correspondence to a close.

Can the President intervene in my case?

The short answer is no.

The President is the senior judge of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales. It is a leadership position. That means that – as well as sitting on cases personally – he has responsibility for issues such as strategy, deployment, welfare and training. The President also liaises, on behalf of the Employment Tribunals judiciary, with HMCTS on issues such as performance and data collection, resources, provision of information technology, the estate, modernisation and security. This is because, as a judge, the President has no direct responsibility for the funding and other resources allocated by the state to this jurisdiction.

The President does not act as a point of challenge or appeal against decisions made by the judges and non-legal members of the Employment Tribunals unless he is acting in his occasional capacity as a visiting judge of the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Writing to the President is not a substitute for presenting an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The President cannot intervene in the decisions reached in your case because of judicial independence.

Judicial independence is a vital and long-established feature of our system of justice. It means that judges must be free to manage cases and make decisions without interference from external agencies, civil servants, politicians, government ministers, or other judges. The only circumstance in which a judge can overturn a decision of another judge is if they are considering that decision in their judicial capacity in an appeal hearing.

By way of example, individuals regularly ask the President to require a case to be started afresh; to overrule a decision made by a judge of this jurisdiction; to encourage or instruct a judge to rethink their decision; to allocate cases to a different judge or region; to ensure that reasonable adjustments or other special measures are in place at a forthcoming hearing; to ensure that certain items of evidence are fully considered; to overrule a decision made on whether a hearing takes place in private or can be observed; or to move cases forward in the queue, so that they are heard more quickly. This is generally not possible because of judicial independence and because of the President’s own judicial neutrality. The only exception is where such applications are made to the President when he is personally adjudicating on a case.

Some individuals consider that the President has a general interest in the details of their case and in following its progression. Given the thousands of cases heard by this jurisdiction, this is not feasible. Correspondence sent to the President in this way will not be responded to.

These principles apply equally to the Regional Employment Judges.