Time limits for submitting claims to Employment Tribunals are extremely tight by general litigation standards.
In a recent ruling the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) in England in the case of Cygnet Behavioural Health Limited v Britton overturned an earlier Employment Tribunal finding which allowed a claim for unfair dismissal to proceed even though it had been lodged outside the strict 3 month statutory time limit.
The test in determining whether an out of time Tribunal claim in an unfair dismissal case should be admitted is whether it was not “reasonably practicable” for the Claimant to bring his claim within the relevant time limits.
In this case the EAT found that the earlier Tribunal had erred in concluding that the Claimant’s ignorance of the time limit and the fact that he suffered both from dyslexia and mental health problems had meant that it was not reasonably practicable for him to lodge his claim within the requisite time limits.
Contrastingly the EAT found that the fact that the Claimant had been able to deal with ACAS (the English equivalent of the LRA), his employer and a statutory regulator investigating his fitness to practice during the relevant period clearly indicated that it would in fact have been reasonably practicable for him to lodge his claim within time.
Reminding itself that a Tribunal decision should only be overturned where it is “perverse” the said decision is shown to be “irrational” or “fundamentally wrong” or “outrageous” the EAT ruled that this test was in fact met in this particular case.
Whilst acknowledging the Claimant’s mental health problems and dyslexia, in the view of the EAT this did not mean that he was incapacitated nor did it mean that it was not reasonably practicable for him to find out about the time limits.
Accordingly, the earlier decision of the Employment Tribunal was overturned on the ground of perversity and the Claimant’s claim dismissed as being out of time.
Had the claim been one proceeding under equality legislation then the broader “just and equitable” test to determine whether time limits should be extended would have applied and it was possible that against that more generous test the claim would have been admitted but in this instance the not reasonably practicable test, which is much stricter, had not been met.