Employment Law Time Limits
Posted on 8th January 2021 at 14:00
In accordance with the Employment Rights Act 1996, and subject to the rules on the automatic extension of time for early conciliation, a claim for unfair dismissal must be presented within a period of three months of an employee’s termination date.
Tribunal time limits are extremely strict and discretion is exercised very rarely.
Tribunals have the power to extend the time limit, but only where they are satisfied that it “was not reasonably practicable for the complaint to be presented before the end of that period”. If a claimant misses a time limit that they could reasonably have met, even by a matter of seconds, the tribunal will not have jurisdiction to hear their claim.
Recent Tribunal claim involving time limits
In the recent case of The Governing Body of Sheredes School v Davies UKEAT/0196/16/JOJ, the strict time limits have come under review again. However in this case, the Claimant sought relief from the Tribunal on the basis that the Solicitors firm he had instructed had been shut down by the SRA. In brief, the claimant, Mr Davies had worked for the Respondent since 2003 and on being dismissed on 12 June 2015, he instructed Solicitors to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. He subsequently entered into the process of early conciliation with ACAS, and on 25 September 2015, ACAS issued an early conciliation certificate. This left them with one month to make a claim to the ET.
On 8 October, his Solicitors advised him to find alternative representation but offered no advice in relation to the pending time limits, and the firm was subsequently shut down by the SRA on 14 October.
On 5 November, the Claimant instructed a new solicitor who advised that the claim must be made urgently; and finally his ET1 was lodged on 10 November, some 16 days out of time.
The Employment Tribunal accepted his claim, extending the time limit on the basis that the intervention by the SRA was a “special reason” that made it not reasonably practicable to present the claim in time.
Appealing to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)
The respondent appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed with the ruling and held that it was the duty of the Claimant’s Solicitors to advise him of the importance of the strict time limits, and they had ample opportunity to do this prior to them being shut down, and if they had done this then the Claimant could have brought his claim within the appropriate time limits. The EAT went on to say that it may well be that the Claimant’s redress is to bring a claim against his former Solicitors for loss of an inopportunity and this no doubt would be covered by their insurance in place at the time.
The importance of not missing Employment Tribunal time limits
This case outlines the harsh application of the rules on time limits for bringing claims, and clearly defines the Claimant’s responsibility to be aware of the time limits involves before bringing a claim. In this particular case, the Tribunal pointed out that ordinarily, an SRA intervention, may have been considered a ‘ special reason’ if the Claimant had not had conduct with his solicitors prior to their intervention, but given their conversation on 8 October, the Solicitors had a duty to warn him of the impending time limits at that time, and ultimately failed in their duty.
This case serves as a warning to practitioners and ultimately to Claimant’s regarding the crucial time limits involved in bringing a claim, and manages all parties expectations when it comes to seeking to rely on the discretion of the tribunal.
Employment Law Solicitors in Warrington
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