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Time Limits: Minimum Wage Claims not Capped at Six Years

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Did the Limitation Act 1980 limit the period that a claim for deductions from wages can go back (in England and Wales) to 6 years?

No, held the EAT in Coletta v Bath Hill Court, in a judgment rendered largely academic due to the 2014 Regulations limiting wages claims to 2 years of arrears (for claims presented from 1st July 2015).

The Claimant, a caretaker, claimed in 2014 that his employer owed him arrears of the National Minimum Wage going back over 15 years. He succeeded at tribunal, but his claim was capped at 6 years of arrears, on the basis that s9 of the Limitation Act provides for a 6-year time limit to recover sums that can be recovered 'by virtue of any enactment'.

The EAT overturned the tribunal's finding, as s39 of the Limitation Act provides that the Limitation Act (and the 6-year limit) does not apply where another enactment provides a time limit for a claim, i.e. the '3-month' time limit for wages claims in s23(2) ERA. There was no basis for any policy considerations to impose any other limitation on wages claims, nor any distinction between procedural and jurisdictional time limits. In previous appellate cases, a 6-year time limit on wages claims had been assumed but there was no binding authority on the point. The EAT avoided expressing any view on the ramifications of this judgment for time limits in breach of contract claims.

Thanks to Ed McFarlane of Deminos HR for preparing this case summary.