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New EAT Decisions

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Relaxed Approach to Unfair Dismissal Time Limits

The EAT has upheld a tribunal's decision that it was not reasonably practicable for an employee to present her claim within three months when she had been advised, by a CAB, to exhaust her employer's internal appeals procedure first.

The EAT held that 'reasonable practicability' is a question of fact, and that there was no rule of law stating that incorrect or incomplete advice from an advisor meant that it was reasonably practicable to present a claim in time.

The focus, according to the EAT (following the Court of Appeal's decision in London International College v Sen) is to concentrate on the state of mind of the employee, and the extent to which she understood her position (para. 21). If she did not understand a claim must be presented within three months, it is not reasonably practicable to do so.

This case is only likely to be relevant to dismissals which were contemplated before 1st October 2004, as the new statutory dismissal procedures provide for an automatic extension of time if the employee reasonably believes the employer's dismissal procedures to be continuing on the date the three-month time limit expires.

Marks and Spencer plc v Williams-Ryan CA 2005

Costs: Giving Reasons for the Assessment

An example of a case where the tribunal decided to award costs. It assessed costs of £750 to be payable by the employee when the Respondent (a firm of solicitors) had claimed £28,000 in costs.

The tribunal expressed the assessment of £750 to be an amount 'taken in the round', but gave no other explanation.

The EAT, whilst acknowledging existing authority stating that reasons for costs awards need only be 'brief', considered the reasoning given to be grossly inadequate and remitted the case for a further explanation of the reasons (with a fairly strong hint that the tribunal might like to review the costs award of its own volition)

Bryant Hamilton & Co v Weir

Pregnancy Dismissal requires knowledge of pregnancy

The EAT has confirmed that an employer must know (or believe) that an employee is pregnant for a dismissal to be automatically unfair on grounds of pregnancy.

In so holding, the EAT has upheld its earlier decision in Del Monte Foods v Mundon, and not adopted the criticisms of that decision by another division of the EAT in Heinz v Kenrick.

Ramdoolar v ByCity Ltd, EAT 2004