If you've done all you can but you still find yourself before the beak, make sure you've got everything at your disposal to fight your corner. “You're at war with the applicant,” says solicitor Sharokh Koussari. “It becomes quite tactical and gets more aggressive.” You only have 21 days to respond to the initial claim, so first off, collect together every document relating to your ex-employee and their claim. This should include a contract of employment and documentation relating to the dismissal, any victimisation claims made during their employ, appraisals, your published take on gross misconduct (if relevant) and any disciplinary action taken against the employee. Additionally, company handbooks and records of training, as well as any policy statements clarifying recruitment practices, health and safety and equal opportunities, may back up your case, although keep it relevant. Hopefully, you'll have ensured that the ex-staff member in question had a witness present during the disciplinary and dismissal procedures and that signed statements can verify your version of events. Also, sit down and list every member of staff present on the day/s in question and any involvement they had in incidents leading up to disciplinary measures or dismissal. Secondly, find the right law firm. If you choose to be represented by a 'friend' then make sure they have experience of tribunals and knowledge of employment law. For a good solicitor, talk to peers and friends. The Law Society may also be useful. You'll need experts in employment law. Some solicitors offer the first consultation for free. All you're doing initially is telling the story as you see it and any corroborating evidence you have, from which they can make a judgement on whether it's a case worth defending. Ask for an estimated cost on a stage by stage basis.

You'll then prepare a written statement, including details of your business and what it does, the background of the employee, recent events and what led to the dismissal or dispute. A relevant law firm’s hourly rate is typically between £175 and £300. You then respond to the IT1 form that was filed against you by the applicant with an IT3 form. And make sure a Notice of Appearance form is filed too as if it's not you won't be able to attend the hearing.