26 Feb 2014

Employment Tribunal Claim Deadlines Tested

Employment Tribunal Claim Deadlines Tested

Laura Dunlop, Trainee Solicitor, examines a recent case which considers the circumstances in which the statutory time limits for raising a claim with the Employment Tribunal may be waived.

Laura Dunlop, Trainee Solicitor, examines a recent case which considers the circumstances in which the statutory time limits for raising a claim with the Employment Tribunal may be waived.

When an Employee wants to raise an employment tribunal claim, they face strict time limits.  If they miss those time limits, they lose their claim, unless they can convince the Tribunal that they had a good excuse.  A recent case  considered one such excuse. 

Mr. Hutton was employed in a senior role by Norbert Dentressangle Logistics Limited and was suspended In November 2011 following allegations of fraud and theft. He was sacked on 18 January 2012.  According to the strict rules, that meant he had to make his Tribunal claim by 17 April 2012.  He appealed internally, and a hearing was first scheduled for February, and then his appeal was dismissed in March. He then lodged his claim with the Tribunal on 30 May.  This was around 6 weeks late. 

The Employment Tribunal decided that they would hear his case, despite it being late.  This was because Mr. Hutton was suffering from debilitating mental and physical illnesses which left him incapable of coping. They decided that these illnesses were created or at least exacerbated by the actions of his employers. Therefore the Tribunal decided that the employee was not capable of raising his claim on time and did raise it as soon as he was capable.  His Employer appealed against that decision.

The key matter was whether the Tribunal made a mistake in deciding that he was ‘not functioning at all at relevant times’. The employer referred to a lengthy email sent to them on 2 April 2012 by Mr. Hutton referring to various complaints that he had and making arguments about his case. The employer argued that as he was in a fit state to write this email he should have been able to raise his claim on time.

The Appeal Tribunal said that if they had been the original Tribunal, they would not have allowed the late claim. However, they refused to overturn the Tribunal’s decision.  Appeal Tribunals can only overturn other decisions if they are completely wrong, just disagreeing with a decision is not enough. The Appeal Tribunal decided that the Tribunal did have a logical basis for their decision and it was upheld.

This case contrasts previous decisions where tribunals have taken a strict approach to time limits. Tribunals have previously stated that even where circumstances may have prevented an employee having use of the full three month period they are still expected to raise their claim in the remaining time available. Where there is a genuine, and compelling, reason why a time limit has been missed, neither an Employee nor and Employer can rule out a claim just because the limitation period has passed.

Laura Dunlop, Trainee Solicitor


Please correct the errors below before submitting your request:

Get in touch

Our dedicated client contact team prefer to receive enquiries through our contact form. We'll endeavour to get back to you within 24 hours or during the course of the next working day.

Source of enquiry