Employment Tribunal Time Limits
The time limits in the Employment Tribunal are strictly applied and compared to claims in the County Court they are particularly short, In general you have only 3 months to put your claim into the Employment Tribunal.
In most cases if you miss the time limit then you will not be able to proceed with your case. There are some exceptions where the Employment Tribunal will allow a case to go ahead, generally if they consider that it was not reasonably practicable for you to make a claim on time.
In a recent case that was decided by the Employment Appeal Tribunal a gentleman was prevented from pursuing his claim for unfair dismissal because he was 20 days late, despite the fact that he relied on his legal advisor to advise him.
Mr H El-Kholy v Rentokil Initial Facilities Services (UK) Ltd
In this case Mr El-Kholy has been employed by Rentokil as a cleaner from the 15th May 2008 until he was dismissed on the 4th October 2011.
Mr El-Kholy had raised a grievance about racial harassment at work with assistance from his Union. He was informed by the Union that if no response was received to his grievance or it was unsatisfactory they would bring a claim on his behalf. Despite this no claim was made.
Then on the 4th October 2011 Mr El-Kholy was invited to a disciplinary meeting where he was dismissed. He subsequently received a letter from Rentokil dated 6th October 2011 which confirmed his last day of employment as the 4th October 2011 and that he would receive 3 weeks payment in lieu of his notice.
Mr El-Kholy instructed a Solicitor to help him on the 15th October 2011 and he and the Solicitors were clear that the last day that he was employed was the 4th October 2011.
Mr El-Kholy appealed his dismissal and this went on through November and December 2011 until on the 6th January 2012 he was informed by Rentokil that his appeal had not been allowed.
In mid January 2012 Mr El-Kholy’s Solicitor suggested that he meet with an employment specialist and the meeting took place on the 23rd January 2012. The employment solicitor submitted his claim to the Employment Tribunal that same day.
The Employment Tribunal rejected the claims on the basis that they had not been submitted within the 3 month time limit which ended on the 3rd January 2012.
Mr El-Kholy appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the basis that it had not been reasonably practicable for him to submit his claim on time as he had been reliant on his advisor. Unfortunately for him the Employment Appeal Tribunal did not agree and they pointed to a number of cases that had been decided previously which clearly set out that failure on the part of a persons advisor is not sufficient grounds for the Employment Tribunal to allow a claim to proceed out of time.
In Mr El-Kholy’s case and anyone in his position his only course of action would be to pursue his advisor for their negligence.
This case serves as an important reminder that it is your responsibility to ensure that your claim is submitted on time, and if your advisor forgets or gets it wrong you will not be able to rely on this error.
Make sure that you know for certain what the last date is that you can submit your claim.
Do not be fooled into thinking that just because the appeal is outstanding the time limit does not matter. The Employment Tribunal time limit remains regardless of the appeal.
Don’t be afraid to question or chase your advisor.
Mistakes can happen, we are after all human, but when a mistake happens like with Mr El-Kholy it is important to ensure your advisor has the appropriate qualifications, experience and insurance should something go wrong.
There are many advisers out there who will claim to be employment specialists but unless they are regulated by the Law Society or Bar Council you will have little reassurance. Solicitors are required to have a minimum level of insurance to cover for such circumstances, so please think twice before handing over your cash or case to any other type of advisor.