Does a tribunal need to be satisfied that there is a good reason for the delay before finding it just and equitable to extend time in a claimant's favour?
No, held the Court of Appeal in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University v Morgan.
In a judgment helpful to many claimants, the court explored the principles behind extending time limits. Ms Morgan suffered from a depressive illness which caused her to be absent from work for all but two days in the last 17 months of her employment. She issued out of time claims for harassment related to disability and failure to make reasonable adjustments.
Upholding the tribunal's decision to extend time, the judgment confirms the following principles:
1. In a complaint about an omission, such as a failure to make reasonable adjustments, the time limit does not run from the date when the breach of duty occurred.
2. The approach to be taken is to establish a default rule that time begins to run at the end of the period in which the respondent might reasonably have been expected to comply with the relevant duty (paragraph 14).
3. That period should "be assessed from the claimant's point of view, having regard to facts known or which ought reasonably to have been known by the claimant at the relevant time, including what the claimant was told by their employer.
4. The "such other period as the employment tribunal thinks just and equitable" extension indicates that Parliament chose to give the tribunal the widest possible discretion with limited scope to challenge on appeal .
5. There is no prescribed list of factors for the tribunal to consider.
6. However, "factors which are almost always relevant to consider are: (a) the length of, and reasons for, the delay and (b) whether the delay has prejudiced the respondent (for example, by preventing or inhibiting it from investigating the claim while matters were fresh)".
7. It was not unreasonable for the tribunal in assessing the extent to which the claimant's delay in bringing her claim should be regarded as culpable to attach some weight to the fact she was pursuing an internal grievance process.
8. There is no requirement that the tribunal had to be satisfied that there was a good reason for the delay before it could conclude that it was just and equitable to extend time in the claimant's favour.
Thanks to David Leslie of Lyons Davidson for preparing this case summary.