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Procedure: Is an employment tribunal decision (sent to the parties) if it is sent to the wrong address?

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Is an employment tribunal decision "sent to the parties" if it is sent to the wrong address?

Yes, held the Court of Appeal in Rana v London Borough of Ealing.

Under the Employment Appeal Tribunal Rules 1993 rule 3(3), the 42 day time limit for an appeal to the EAT from an employment tribunal decision starts to run when the tribunal's judgment and/or the written reasons are "sent to the parties".

In two joined cases before the Court of Appeal the tribunals' decisions were erroneously sent to a former representative of the party wishing to appeal. Were the decisions nevertheless "sent to the parties" for the purpose of the rule? If not, what approach should be taken to the discretion to extend the time limit?

The court held that what matters is when the decisions were sent. If time runs from the date of dispatch this is, he said, from a practical point of view, inherently more certain than the date of delivery. However, if a judgment has not come to the attention of a party through no fault of their own or their representative, it would be unfair that time should be running (and might in some cases expire), before they became aware of it.

He therefore held that any such unfairness should generally be met by the exercise of the discretion to extend time under rule 37. And in these particular cases it would be right for that discretion to be exercised. Therefore the cases could proceed.

Thanks to Dr John McMullen of Wrigleys Solicitors LLP for preparing this case summary.