Hear From Current Non-Legal Members

Kerry George
I have sat as an employee panel member for over twenty years. My background is in education and I was a national officer at the NAHT union. I really enjoy hearing cases. It is demanding, requiring listening and concentration, but it is never dull because it is about people. I have learned so much - not just about how employment law works - but also about how people operate in workplaces very different from those I am familiar with. As members, we bring our experience of work (and life!) with us but we also acquire experience and knowledge through hearing cases. Reaching a judgment with colleagues is also a fascinating process. We are an equal panel and there can be intense discussion, but it is very rare, in my experience, not to arrive at unanimity. It is difficult to assess one's own contribution but I hope I have demonstrated a strong sense of fairness and a willingness to listen. It is necessary to take the process seriously and to keep an open mind. One thing that concerned me at the start was whether my previous experiences might affect my perception of a case, but that fear quickly dissipated; the process of finding facts as a foundation for decision making enhances objectivity and ensures that the focus remains on the evidence, not any personal views. Training is provided annually in Region; this provides an opportunity to deal with practical issues and to share experiences with colleagues. - Kerry George

Tony Libbard
I am an Employee member. I have been a member since November 1999. My first sitting was in February 2000. I was in the first intake that were required to apply for the post. I was a civil servant for 27 years. I spent my entire career in the Valuation Office. I was a member of the PCS union for over 30 years. The variability of the cases is the key. Each case presents a unique challenge, and we are part of a team whose duty it is to ensure that parties receive a fair hearing in accordance with the law and the evidence. I enjoy the fact-finding exercise that we engage to provide the basis for our decision. Sifting through the evidence and comparing notes in order to arrive at the relevant facts has given me my most satisfying moments in a tribunal hearing. A very good team spirit is created and I am able to contribute my experience, enthusiasm and skills to achieve a just outcome. It is very much a team effort. I was provided with training by my trade union prior to applying, which dispelled many of my concerns. My one remaining concern was - were the Judges "ogres"? My experience has provided the answer - I have never met a judge who fitted that stereotype. - Tony Libbard

Gerry Eskersley
I was appointed as an employer representative for the Glasgow Employment Tribunal in 2002 (when I was on maternity leave with my third child). My professional background is Human Resource Management and whilst I did specialise in Employee Relations for several years, the majority of my 30-year career has been more general, across the full range of HR disciplines. I also teach Human Resource Management at two Universities. There are many things that I enjoy about the role. I've always been interested in Employment Law and this challenging role gives me the opportunity to apply my knowledge, ensures that I am up to date and keeps me learning all the time. I particularly enjoy working with my fellow panel members. Reaching a decision is usually straightforward but occasionally requires a great deal of listening and questioning to really understand the perspective and expertise of each other. I believe one of my main contributions is my knowledge and experience of the world of work. I understand many of the pressures that line managers and employees face on a day to day basis and have knowledge of different working environments across different industry sectors. Before starting, I was concerned about whether I had enough in-depth knowledge about employment law, however, the judges are terrific at explaining the elements that we need to focus on from a legal perspective and keep us right. We also receive two training days per year and have access to online legal resources. - Gerry Eskersley

Celia Edwards
I worked for many years at the Citizens Advice Bureau assisting those with employment and other matters before being appointed to the Employee panel some 13 years ago. After being appointed I qualified as a Solicitor. I have sat on many different types of cases, some of which were high profile and lasted many days. When I first started, I found the prospect of being so closely observed in a public hearing rather daunting. However, I was given the opportunity to observe hearings and to see how confident the sitting Tribunal members were. It did not take long for me to get used to the hearings. The role of a Tribunal member is very important, as the whole panel, the Employment Judge and the two lay members, have equal status in deciding cases. The panel discusses at length when deliberating on cases and sometimes there are differences of opinion. We listen to each other's views and discuss areas of potential disagreement before reaching our conclusions. Being able to work as part of a team, under the guidance of the Employment Judge, is a crucial part of the role. I enjoy this role as I learn about different jobs, employers, employees and interactions in the workplace. It is rewarding to use a variety of skills such as critical thinking, communication and listening, as well as applying my own knowledge and experience. - Celia Edwards

Yvonne Ramsaran
I was appointed to the Employer panel in 1999, the first cohort to go through open recruitment. At the time, I was working as a local government lawyer. I was originally assigned to London East and now sit in the Bristol Employment Tribunal. Subsequently, I retrained and am now working as an independent HR Consultant. I particularly enjoy the variety of cases we deal with. We hear the full range of discrimination cases and I was a member of the first panel to make an award in a sexual orientation discrimination case. I have been able to contribute my knowledge and experience gained from working with a wide range of employers. The panel work as a team. Whilst we get guidance on the law from the Employment Judge, we all contribute to the discussions and findings of fact and have input into the wording of the judgments. Before I started to sit, I had concerns about whether I would have the requisite knowledge to play a full part on the panel. However, we were provided with a thorough induction which included observing how panels operate. This is supplemented by annual training, not just on the law, but also the role of the non-legal members and how they should conduct themselves. In the tribunal, we always have time to discuss issues and research any particular points. I have also been able to make full use of access to legal publications. - Yvonne Ramsaran

Bill Horne
I was appointed as an Employer member in 2010, following a career in the police service. I had been responsible for both the human resource and discipline functions within my organisation. Whilst I would never claim to be an expert in either field, my role required me to develop a reasonably detailed understanding of employment issues and best practice. Although the role of a police officer may not seem an obvious grounding for hearing employment cases, some of the key skills are very similar. Both jobs involve listening carefully, identifying relevant points, weighing up conflicting arguments and also being able to justify conclusions in debate with others. Working as a non-legal member, with people from different backgrounds and life experiences, has broadened my understanding of, and challenged my assumptions about, the workplace. Playing your part in seeking a just outcome for those involved in employment disputes is a very worthwhile way to spend your time. Prior to starting, I did wonder what the dynamic would be between the non-legal members and Employment Judges. I have been very impressed with the effort judges make to ensure decisions are reached following full debate. Judges are the experts in the law, but members have recent and valuable knowledge of the workplace. - Bill Horne

Nina Franklin
I have been sitting as an Employee member for about 20 years. My background is as a SEND teacher in secondary schools, which I did for about for about 30 years. I was also a representative for one of the larger education unions and worked to provide advocacy support for members, both collectively and individually. My national work also focused on the development of Union policy. I enjoy working with Employment Judges and other panel members to ensure a fair hearing, especially when the claimant is unrepresented. The work provides many learning opportunities and we also have the benefit of ongoing training given by Employment Judges. I hope that I have been able to contribute my knowledge of the workplace and helped put all parties at ease. I was concerned that my knowledge of employment law was very basic and that I wouldn't understand what was happening. In fact, the process has always been so clearly set out and explained by the Judges that this turned out not to be an issue. - Nina Franklin

Hansa Bharadia
My profession is human resources management and I have worked in a variety of sectors. I became a Non-Legal Member in 2005 as an employer panel Member in the London South Region, based in Croydon. I joined the service as I felt I could make a valuable contribution given my background in HR and, in particular, employee relations. In my role as an HR professional I have to deal with a variety of employee relations matters and I felt that by becoming a Non-Legal member I could both apply and enhance my experience. I have very much enjoyed dealing with a wide variety of claims and working with the Judges and fellow members. I learn something new with every sitting. There is an excellent training day at least once a year; it is very well presented and hugely beneficial. The training is informative, interactive and includes group work. Working on cases can be intense - on occasions you will have to consider a vast amount of information, so it is important to be methodical and analytical. The judges provide guidance on the law where necessary. As a panel, we work as a team, taking into account individual contributions and working through those by focussing on the evidence we have heard, which is very satisfying. - Hansa Bharadia

Keith Pirie
I have sat on the Aberdeen panel of the Employment Tribunals (Scotland) since 2005. I joined Aberdeen City Police as a constable in 1973 and in 2004, after a career that included work in security, information technology, communications, traffic, training and senior management, I retired, leaving Grampian Police in the rank of Chief Superintendent. I set up my own company in 2005 and worked in many countries training senior management personnel in strategic management and leadership. When I retired from the police I wanted a role that allowed me to continue to work with people in an enquiring and challenging environment. Sitting as a tribunal member satisfies this. I enjoy listening to the evidence of witnesses, clarifying facts with them and reading, assimilating, and considering the available written evidence, submissions and legal precedents. This, then, has to be analysed and debated as we, as a tribunal, reach a judgement. I have gained a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I have had an impact on settling disputes between parties by having reached conclusions that are legally sound, fair and just, based on our analysis and debate. At the outset, I had concerns that my level of legal knowledge would not be detailed enough to allow me to carry out the role. I needn't have worried, my experience in the work place and the advice and guidance available through interaction with the employment judges, other tribunal members and the twice yearly training courses allow me to participate fully. – Keith Pirie