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Unfair Dismissal Time Limits

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The EAT has handed down a decision restating the importance of a solicitor ensuring he does not leave presentation of the Claim Form to the last day.

The Claimant instructed solicitors a week after she was dismissed. The firm, which had only one employment lawyer, was extremely busy and the lawyer concerned adopted a 'time-bar list' approach, i.e. leaving cases to just before the limitation deadline before dealing with them.

On the Friday (before time expired on the following Monday), the solicitor was about to go on holiday but told his secretrary to fax the Claim Form on the Monday morning. She fell ill over the weekend, did not work on Monday, and faxed the Claim Form on Tuesday, i.e. one day late.

The tribunal (sitting at Dundee) held it was not reasonably practicable for the Claim Form to be presented within three months, as the failure to present the claim in time was caused by an unforeseen absence by the solicitor's secretary.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (HHJ Serota QC presiding) held that this conclusion was wrong in law because the tribunal only looked at the events of the last few days. What it should have done was look at the entire three month period - and there was no good reason why the Claim Form could not have been presented earlie. It reaffirmed cases stating that if a solicitor leaves presenting the Claim Form until the last moment, he does so at his own risk.

Agrico v Ireland