Trying Times

The time limit in which an individual must issue a claim for unfair dismissal, including constructive dismissal, is 3 months from the termination date. This can be extended if it was not “reasonably practicable” for the individual to issue their claim within that time frame.

In Higgins v Home Office, Miss Higgins alleged that she had been constructively dismissed by the Home Office, her employer at the time, in December 2007. However, she didn’t submit her claim until 27th January 2014, nearly 6 (yes, six!) years out of time. The original Tribunal rejected her claim on the basis that presenting it so far out of time amounted to an abuse of the Tribunal’s process, amongst other things.

Miss Higgins appealed against the rejection of her claim to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). With her appeal, she presented a letter from a Consultant Psychiatrist to say that she had not been well enough in the preceding 6 years to pursue her legal case and it was therefore not reasonably practicable for her to have issued the claim within the 3 month time period. The EAT decided that, on these facts, it was possible for a claim issued this far out of time to proceed and the matter has been referred back to the original Tribunal to decide whether it should.

This decision acts as a stark reminder that while the passing of the 3 month time period following, for example, the dismissal of an employee may bring some comfort that no claim is on the way, there are going to be some situations where claims going back beyond that time could be pursued. Whether or not 6 years is taking this too far is a matter yet to be decided.

 

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James Tamm

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