Employees who want to bring a claim in the employment tribunal for unfair dismissal (or most other claims) must submit their application so that it is received by the tribunal within 3 months from the date of dismissal, or other act complained of. This means that the tribunal has to receive the claim one day before the 3 month time limit, so for example a person whose employment ended on 2 January would need to get their claim filed with the tribunal by midnight on 1 April. And midnight means midnight – claims sent electronically and received by the tribunal 9 seconds after midnight have been held to be out of time.
If the claim is not filed in time, for unfair dismissal cases, the tribunal does have discretion to extend the time limit where it was not reasonably practical for the claimant to file the claim on time and they then filed it promptly once the deadline had passed. Historically this has been an extremely difficult test to satisfy. However, in the recent case of John Lewis Partnership v Charman, the Employment Appeal Tribunal refused to overturn an employment tribunal decision that it was not reasonably practical for an unfair dismissal claim to be presented within the time limit where the employee was genuinely unaware of the time limit prior to the completion of an internal appeal process. In the circumstances, the claimant was allowed to proceed with the claim.
It should be noted that ignorance of the time limits will not normally be sufficient to allow a claim filed late to proceed. However, this case does illustrate that sometimes a genuine ignorance of the rules can help!
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected])