Employment Appeals Tribunal reinforces strictness of time limits

The Employment Appeals Tribunal ruling in J v K and another reminds employers and employees of the strict time limits enforced by tribunals. This decision indicates that tribunals are unlikely to extend deadlines, even where the delay is as little as one hour.

Background

The Appellant, a teacher known throughout the hearing as J, brought a claim against his employer for discrimination and victimisation. The claim was struck out by the employment tribunal and J was ordered to pay the employer’s costs of £20,000.

J sought to appeal the judgment to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (‘EAT’). The time limit for the appeal was 4.00pm on 30 September 2016. J believed he had until midnight of that day to submit his appeal, only realising on 30 September itself that the deadline was in fact 4.00pm.

The Appellant attempted to send the appeal and supporting documents by email but, due to the size and number of documents, was not successful in sending all documents to the EAT until 5.00pm. This rendered the appeal out of time.

The Appellant made an interim appeal to have the time limit extended. He argued that his disability, which included a history of depression and anxiety, made it difficult to concentrate and caused him to be easily distracted. Further, the implications of the EAT not allowing his appeal would mean he would lose his home given the £20,000 costs award against him.

Findings

The EAT rejected the interim appeal. The Appellant had not provided specific medical evidence to demonstrate that he was incapable of complying with deadlines, only generalised quotations from the internet.

It was accepted that the Appellant would suffer prejudice by having a costs order made against him, since that is always the effect of such orders. However, there was nothing to suggest that the employment tribunal had exercised itself wrongly in making the costs order and the EAT could not see a strong case for the appeal.

The EAT concluded that the Appellant had the opportunity and ability to understand the rules for submitting his appeal and had left himself insufficient time to submit all the necessary papers electronically. The EAT Rules were clear as to time limits and there was nothing on the facts to suggest the EAT should exercise its discretion to extend the deadline as it considered no good excuse for the delay had been shown.

Comment

This case re-enforces that time limits in the tribunal system are strict and will rarely be extended. All parties should make a careful note of any deadlines and ensure that documents are submitted well before the final hour.

If documents are being sent electronically, allow for issues with IT systems and take into account the size and number of documents being sent.

For more information on employment tribunal time limits and defending a claim please contact the Devonshires Employment Team.

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