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Grievance Procedures and Limitation

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The Employment Appeal Tribunal has held that time limits are not extended under the statutory dispute resolution procedures, where an employee brings a discrimination claim against another employee.

The Claimant brought a race discrimination claim against her employer and the individual she claimed had discriminated against her. The claims were presented over three months, but less than six months, after the discrimination allegedly took place.

As against the employer, the three-month limitation period was undoubtedly extended to six months following her submission of a step 1 grievance letter.

However, the EAT held that there was no extension of time in respect of the claim against the fellow employee, as the statutory grievance procedure did not apply - and therefore the provisions extending the limitation period did not engage. Accordingly the claim was prima facie out of time.

The conclusion is undoubtedly correct. It is quite plain from the wording of the legislation that the statutory dispute resolution framework is not intended to apply to disputes between fellow employees - thus the result of this case is unimpeachable.

However, the EAT's reasoning in reaching that conclusion was (in part) flawed, as the EAT relied on s30 of the Employment Act 2002. This provides that the statutory grievance procedures are deemed to be implied into the contract of employment - and since the Claimant had no contract with her fellow employee, the statutory grievance procedure could not have applied. This reasoning is incorrect as s30 has not been brought into force (the DTI is reviewing this, amongst other matters, later this year).

Bisset v Martins & Castlehill

[Thanks to Sandy Kemp of Simpson & Marwick, who represented the Respondent, for passing me this decision.]