Strict time limits are in place for issuing claims in the employment tribunal and if these are not complied with, there are only rare occasions when a claim will be allowed to continue to proceed.
RBLI a long-standing client of the firm instructed Nick Hobden and Ben Stepney to represent them in defending unfair dismissal and disability discrimination claims in the employment tribunal.
RBLI is a charity that provides social welfare, housing, healthcare and employment related support for those in need from the Armed Forces, disabled and disadvantaged communities.
The claimant alleged that she had been constructively unfairly dismissed and had suffered disability discrimination by RBLI’s failure to maintain reasonable adjustments to accommodate her disability when her terms of employment (including place of work) were revised.
Nick identified immediately on reading the papers that the claims had been issued out of time. The change to her working conditions which she relied on to pursue her disability claim occurred on the 2 April 2009. She did not resign until the 16 September 2009. She should therefore have issued her claim for constructive dismissal on or before the 15 December 2009 (3 months from the date she ended her employment with RBLI). However she issued proceedings on the 4 March 2010.
Nick advised RBLI to apply to the tribunal for a pre-hearing review (PHR) to determine whether the claims were out of time. At the PHR the claimant sought to argue that the time limits should be extended due to erroneous advice she had received from her local CAB and due to circumstances in her personal life. The tribunal are permitted to consider whether the time limit should be extended in circumstances where it was not reasonably practicable for the claimant to have begun her claim in time. We demonstrated that there was case law against granting an extension where the claim and been brought out of time following erroneous legal advice and that the claimant’s circumstances, whilst unfortunate, did not fully explain her delay in issuing. The tribunal agreed with us and the claims were struck out.
By having the claim struck out at a very early stage of the proceedings, RBLI saved themselves the cost and time of defending the claims. A case like this would have been listed for a 4 day final hearing and would have taken up a considerable amount of management time.