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Unfair Dismissal Time Limits and Citizens Advice Bureaux

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It's been a year or so since this point last cropped up, so we were overdue for another confusing decision...

Luckily, though, Lady Smith (sitting in the EAT) has handed down a clear and helpful judgment dealing with whether it is reasonably practicable for a Claimant to present an unfair dismissal claim where, due to the fault of the CAB, the three month time limit is missed.

Reviewing all the authorities, Lady Smith held that:

  • there is no rule of law that a CAB advisor should be regarded as a 'skilled advisor', comparable to a solicitor, so as to fix the Claimant with the advisor's fault (para. 25).
  • there is a distinction between cases where an advisor provides general (incorrect!) advice on time limits, and where the advisor takes responsibility for actually presenting the ET1 on the Claimant's behalf (paras. 27-28)
  • given the appeal result (for which the Claimant was waiting, on the CAB's advice) was known two days before the end of the three month period, and the Claimant downloaded an ET1 from the ETS website during those two days (and could have submitted his ET1 electronically), it was nevertheless reasonably practicable for him to have presented his claim within the three-month deadline. Accordingly his claim could not proceed (para. 41)

Royal Bank of Scotland v Theobald