Employment Tribunal Time Limits

The usual time limit for a Claimant to issue a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal is three months less than one day from the termination of employment. This was tested recently at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Overview of Pora v Cape Industrial Services Ltd [2019]

The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Pora v Cape Industrial Services Ltd [2019] UKEAT 0253/18 provided some further guidance regarding the strict approach taken in respect of “reasonable practicability” in relation to the time limits for unfair dismissal claims.

Claimant’s Circumstances and Initial Employment Tribunal

In this case, the Claimant (and later the Appellant) had instructed a law centre for advice and support to present a claim to the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal and racial discrimination. Although the Claimant had followed up the matter with the law centre regularly, the claim was unfortunately lodged at the Employment Tribunal out of time.

Appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal

The Claimant had done everything he could to have his claim presented in time, but the Employment Tribunal rejected it. The Claimant subsequently appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and upheld the Employment Tribunal’s decision that the claim for unfair dismissal claim was out of time and that it had been reasonably practicable for him to lodge it in time.

Specifics of Time Limit and Appeal Decision

In this instance, the effective date of termination (“EDT”) was 12 May 2017 but the claim had been presented to the Employment Tribunal on 23 March 2018. In upholding the Employment Tribunal’s decision Mrs Justice Slade emphasised that the situation plainly fell within the scope of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in Dedman v British Building and Engineering Appliances Limited [1973] IRLR 379 CA.

Key Observations from Mrs Justice Slade

In particular, Mrs Justice Slade observed (in paragraph 19 of her judgment) that “[w]here a claimant knows that he has a claim and puts his case in the hands of specialist advisers and it is due to their fault that a claim is not presented in time, it was reasonably practicable for the claimant to present his claim in time.”

Distinction Between Unfair Dismissal and Discrimination Claims

Mrs Justice Slade further noted the difference in the statutory provisions governing limitation periods in respect of unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. Specifically, there can be a just and equitable extension for discrimination claims but not for unfair dismissal claims which in turn can lead to different outcomes when claims for both discrimination and unfair dismissal are lodged out of time.

Conclusion and Key Lessons from the Case

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s judgment serves to emphasise the importance of ensuring that claims are lodged in good time and highlights the benefit of seeking good quality professional advice from the outset.

This case highlights the inflexibility of tribunal time limits and why it is imperative to comply as well as the benefit of seeking professional legal advice.

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