Unfair Dismissal Legal Update

Written by Brabners LLP

Claimants BEWARE! Recent case confirms that unfair dismissal time limit does not automatically extend to the next working day when it expires on a Sunday

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’) has recently held that when the limitation period to bring an unfair dismissal claim expires on a non-working day (such as a Sunday), it does not automatically extend to the next working day.  The EAT came to this conclusion when considering the wording and time periods in the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure 2013 (‘the Rules’). 

The case in point was Miah v Axis Security Services Limited.  In this case, the Claimant (‘M’) brought his claim for unfair dismissal on 30 January 2017, which was a Monday. Unfortunately for M, the limitation period to bring the claim (within three months of the effective date of termination) expired on Sunday 29 January 2017.  This meant that M’s claim was effectively time-barred, but M tried to argue that time should be extended and that his claim should be allowed to proceed.

M’s case was first heard by an employment tribunal.  At first instance, M argued that he had posted his claim on 26 January 2017 by recorded post, but he was unsuccessful in persuading the tribunal of this. M was unable to evidence his argument sufficiently and the tribunal held that there was nothing that would have prevented M from bringing his claim on time.  As a result, the tribunal held that M’s claim was time-barred and that they did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim.

M then appealed to the EAT. M’s appeal was based on Rule 4(2) of the Rules. In particular, M’s solicitors argued that the rule gave M an extra day to bring his claim as limitation fell on a non-working day. Rule 4(2) states:

“If the time specified by these Rules, a practice direction or an order for doing any act ends on a day other than a working day, the act is done in time if it is done on the next working day. “Working day” means any day except a Saturday or Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday or a bank holiday…”

The EAT rejected M’s argument and upheld the tribunal’s original decision.

The EAT held that Rule 4(2) only applied to extend time limits set by either: (a) the Rules themselves; (b) a practice direction; or (c) a tribunal order. M’s claim was for unfair dismissal and limitation for unfair dismissal is set by legislation (namely section 111 of the Employment Rights Act 1996) instead.  As a result, M’s claim was still found to be time-barred and Rule 4(2) of the Rules did not provide any assistance to M.

The key point to take away from this case is that claims should be made well in advance of limitation deadlines to avoid any potential mistakes and missing the deadline. As well as this, in the event that the limitation deadline is closing in, the most sensible option may well be for claimants to submit their claims online and not to rely on the post.

 

This bulletin is for general guidance purposes only and should not be used for any other purpose.

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