Employment Update: Time limits

28 September 2007

A claim form emailed to an employment tribunal only 88 seconds after the expiry of the prescribed time limit may be out of time.

An unfair dismissal claim must be filed with the tribunal within three months of the effective date of dismissal. This time limit can be extended where the tribunal is satisfied that it was not ‘reasonably practicable’ for the complaint to be presented within the time limit.

In Beasley v National Grid the claimant was notified of the three-month time limit by solicitors but they also suggested to him that the time limit might be extended if he were to submit a grievance. This advice was supported by Acas whom he telephoned for further advice. However, with only two days of the three-month period still to run, he telephoned the tribunal and was told that, as his grievance had no bearing on the actual dismissal, the three-month time limit still applied. The next day, the claimant completed a claim form but misread the email address for the tribunal. His email, sent at 16 minutes to midnight, was returned to him one minute later. After sending a test message to the correct address, he successfully sent his claim form but it arrived 88 seconds after midnight.

The tribunal considered that it could not extend the time limit in his favour and the EAT has now agreed.

In considering whether it was ‘reasonably practicable’ for him to bring his claim within the required period, the critical factors to be determined were –

  • The state of his knowledge relating to the right to make a claim and the need to bring that claim within three months of dismissal; and

  • The steps taken by him to ensure that he did bring the claim in time; and;

  • Any impediments that prevented him from doing so.

He had had a reduced ‘window of opportunity’ within which to file his claim after being told by the tribunal that he would have to do so on the next day but it was still ‘reasonably practicable’ for him to have done so.

Point to note –

  • Under Reg.15 of the Dispute Resolution Regulations it is possible for the three-month time limit to be extended for a further three months but only if the employee had reasonable grounds for believing, when the normal time limit expired, that a dismissal or disciplinary procedure was being followed in respect of matters that included the substance of his or her tribunal claim. That was not the case here.

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