Applying for an anonymity order when bringing a claim against an employer

Aim of this page

This page aims to provide information on applying for an anonymity order if you’re considering bringing a claim against an employer at an employment tribunal and you would like to keep your personal details anonymous.

It’s part of our information on looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering.

Why is this important?

Since 2017, employment tribunal decisions have been published online. This means that the names of anyone making a claim at a tribunal (together with the other parties involved) may show up on an internet search.

Knowing that you’ve made a claim against a previous employer could potentially give any further employers an unjustified negative opinion of you. In some cases, they may have sight of sensitive data which may not be accessible anywhere else, for example details of a spent conviction. For this reason, you may wish to try and obtain an anonymity order, so that your personal information is not available online.

How can the publication of an employment tribunal decision affect you?

We know that many employers now use the internet as a way of carrying out informal checks on potential employees. This could be to verify your employment history (matching the information you’ve provided on your CV to that which they can find online), to check whether you have a criminal record (from newspaper reports) or just to see the sort of posts you’ve added on social media. These searches will often reveal the decisions made by an employment tribunal and some employers may be put off from employing you simply because you’ve previously brought a claim.

Potential employers (and the general public) will also have access to whatever details are included in the tribunal decision. This is despite there being legislation in place elsewhere which prohibits employers from having access to some of this information. For example, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act makes it unlawful for the majority of employers to take into account your spent convictions. However, proving that you’ve been rejected on the basis of a spent conviction can be difficult.

These details are of course not just available to employers; insurers and underwriters often do online searches and may decide not to offer you a policy if they become aware of your criminal record.

Many employment tribunal claimants are unaware that the details of their case is available online until it’s too late and those that are aware of it can be deterred from bringing a case.

If you’re concerned about a tribunal decision being made available online then it’s worth considering applying for an anonymity order.

Applying for an anonymity order

Employment tribunals have a discretionary power to make an order which prevents or restricts the public disclosure of any aspect of the tribunal. These anonymity orders are covered by Rule 50 of the Employment Tribunal rules, ‘Privacy and restrictions on disclosure’.

Rule 50(3)(b) permits for:

An order that the identity of specified parties, witnesses or other persons referred to in the proceedings should not be disclosed to the public, by the use of anonymisation or otherwise …..”

In making an order, the tribunal must consider carefully the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), namely the right to freedom of expression and the principle of open justice. Open justice includes the naming of any person involved in the case and the ability of the press to report on proceedings held in open court. The common law and Article 6 of the ECHR protect the right to a public hearing and the right of the media to report on public hearings is protected by Article 10 of the ECHR.

It’s not easy to have an order granted and employment tribunals have become increasingly reluctant to allow any restriction on the full details of any case being held in public, including redacting the names of individuals who are not directly related to the case.

There is no set form or document that needs to be completed when applying for an anonymity order you simply need to write to the employment tribunal providing the Case Number on any correspondence.

Your application should state what form of anonymity you are requesting, for example are you looking to anonymise your name and any information that could identify you or do you want your hearing to he held in private. The employment tribunal will look to make the least restrictive form of order possible. For example, if you can be sufficiently protected by having your name redacted in any documents and on the judgement and directing attendees not to disclose your details, then the tribunal is unlikely to agree to a private hearing.

You can often increase your chances of getting an anonymity order if you do not over-request the level of protection you require.

What do you need to include in your anonymity application?

If you are able to do so, you should outline the legal basis for your application. This is likely to be based around Article 8 of the ECHR namely the right to respect for private and family life.

In seeking an anonymity order you will need to demonstrate that your right to privacy and family life under Article 8 of ECHR will be compromised and show that by not granting an order you will suffer ongoing harm or prejudice. If you wouldn’t proceed with your claim without the anonymity order then it’s worth saying that. If you’re deterred from bringing the claim, then you are effectively being denied your rights.

The tribunal will consider your argument and undertake an assessment of the public or other interest in the full publication of the claim. They will focus on your claim and the justification for restricting them.

To give your application the best chance of success:

  • Identify any infringement of your rights and, wherever possible, produce evidence to support this. Publishing information which might be embarrassing would not be sufficient reason to restrict publication.
  • Explain why it’s important to protect the disclosure of a spent conviction and the detrimental effect this would have on future employment if it were disclosed. You could highlight that this information would usually be protected by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and Data Protection Act 2018.
  • Apply for an order which causes the least possible restriction to the full publication (an application to redact certain details will have a better chance of success than a total publication restriction).
  • Where publication impacts the Article 8 rights of children or vulnerable individuals, tribunals will readily grant an anonymity order.

Before making an application you should notify the other party in your case and try to reach agreement that anonymisation is necessary. Although the tribunal must make a decision based on the information presented to it, agreement with the other party can sometimes sway a decision in your favour.

Do I need a solicitor to prepare my application?

Many people will be put off from making an anonymity order application because they cannot afford to instruct a solicitor and don’t qualify for legal aid. However, you can sometimes get legal advice through your household insurance policy, your trade union or legal advice centres.

What’s the cost of making an application?

There is no cost for making an application to an employment tribunal.

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • ACAS – An organisation devoted to preventing and resolving employment disputes.
  • GOV.UK – Government website providing further details of the employment tribunal process.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found in our looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering information section.
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

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  1. Comment on this page (below).
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  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum.
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