What a Difference a Minute Makes
A recent Employment Tribunal (ET) case shows the importance of getting claims in on time. Under the ET's rules, an employee must bring an unfair dismissal claim within three months of his or her effective date of termination. Time limits for presenting claims to the Tribunals Service are normally strictly enforced. If the deadline is missed, the Employment Rights Act 1996 states that the claim will only be accepted if it is presented ‘within such further period as the tribunal considers reasonable in a case where it is satisfied that it was not reasonably practicable for the complaint to be presented before the end of that period of three months.’
In this instance, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the ET’s decision that Mr Beasley’s claim for unfair dismissal was presented outside the three-month period because the claim form sent by a Mr Beasley arrived by email at the Tribunals Service 88 seconds after the deadline.
Mr Beasley contended that the ET had not given proper consideration to whether or not it was reasonably practicable for him to have presented the claim in time.
The EAT found that the ET had considered whether Mr Beasley was aware of the time limit. It had heard evidence that although he had been advised by ACAS that submitting a grievance would extend the time limit by 28 days, he was given specific advice the day before the time limit expired that he should get his claim in immediately.
The late submission arose because he sent it by e-mail and that bounced due to his using an incorrect e-mail address. With a submission deadline of midnight, he sent, at 23.57, a test e-mail. When that did not bounce,he send the application again, at midnight. That e-mail arrived too late.
The EAT held that the ET was entitled to make the finding it had, based on the evidence that Mr Beasley could have sent the claim form at 23:57 instead of the test email. The apparent unfairness of the decision is magnified by the fact that ACAS had incorrectly advised him that he had a longer period in which to file his claim. The solicitors he consulted at the 11th hour advised him to put his claim in immediately, but his further delay was fatal to his claim being considered.
With regard to any impediments which prevented Mr Beasley from presenting his claim in time, although he did have a reduced window of opportunity in which to lodge his claim and had experienced difficulty with the format used and in reading the email address, in the EAT’s view the ET had considered the facts properly and was entitled to reach the conclusion it had on the facts before it.
His appeal was dismissed.
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