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Law Commission consults on tribunal claims limit

Napthens - November 2nd 2018

Last month the Law Commission launched a consultation which seeks to investigate the jurisdictions of the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Civil Courts in employment and discrimination matters. The project which started in December 2017 aims to assess the extent to which the current system could be improved. One of the key considerations of the consultation is whether the time limit allowed for tribunal claims should be extended.

Currently claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination must be brought within three months. The time limit can be extended in certain circumstances; however in practice this is rare and only occurs where the employment tribunal is satisfied that it was not reasonably practicable for the complaint to be presented within the time limit.

The limit may then be extended for such period as the tribunal considers reasonable or, less commonly, if the employment tribunal considers that an extended time period is just and equitable.

Currently, only claims for redundancy pay and equal pay have the longer time limit of six months. The Law Commission is therefore considering whether there should be any extension of the primary time limit either generally or in specific cases and if so whether this should be a more generous time limit of six months or some other, as yet undecided, period.

The current time limit of three months for the majority of statutory employment claims stems from the idea that tribunals are a setting for the quick and informal resolution of employment disputes. However whilst this is still applicable to some cases, many employment tribunal cases are far more complex, of much higher value and subsequently can take a long time to resolve.

The consultation therefore provides an opportunity to take stock of how employment tribunals have evolved and whether the varying time limits should be more consistent.

The proposed changes to the time limit are likely to be of benefit to victims of sexual assault who may delay coming forward or employees who have been dismissed while pregnant or on maternity leave whose primary focus is giving birth and caring for their newborn child. Equally a standardised time limit on all cases should, in theory, lead to more certainty and consistency.

However, an extension of time creates a longer period of insecurity for employers as to whether an individual will bring a tribunal claim. Similarly if the time limits are only changed for specific cases this could cause further confusion leading to failures to comply; this is especially true where there are multiple allegations.

As such the Law Commission are inviting responses from 26 September 2018 – 11 January 2019 and will make final recommendations in light of the responses they receive. For those of you who are interested in partaking in the consultation you can do so here.