The Court of Appeal recently held that a tribunal does not need to be satisfied that there is a good reason for a delay in bringing a claim before finding it just and equitable to extend time in a claimant’s favour.
- Time limits
A claimant can bring a claim in an employment tribunal where legislation permits, for example, the Employment Rights Act (ERA) 1996 allows individuals to present a complaint for unfair dismissal against an employer to an employment tribunal.
Those intending to bring a claim to an employment tribunal should bear in mind any relevant time limits for bringing such a claim. These time limits will be listed in the relevant legislation, for example, the ERA 1996 provides that a claim for unfair dismissal should be brought within three months of the date of the employee’s termination.
If a claimant fails to bring a claim within the relevant time limit the employment tribunal will no longer have jurisdiction to hear the claim unless the tribunal decides that the time limit should be extended. A tribunal may extend time to bring a claim if it is considered to be just and equitable to do so.
- Extension of time
An employment tribunal has a wide discretion when exercising its power to extend the time limit for bringing a claim where they consider it to be just and equitable to do so.
The Court of Appeal held in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University v Morgan that a tribunal does not need to be satisfied that there is a good reason for the delay in bringing a claim before finding it just and equitable to extend time in the claimant's favour.
The Court confirmed several principles in its judgment including the principle that there is no prescribed list of factors for a tribunal to consider where a claim is delayed, however, there are several relevant factors which a tribunal should always consider when exercising its discretion to extend time which are the length of the delay, the reasons for the delay and whether the delay has prejudiced the respondent in any way.
The Court also confirmed that when determining whether time for a claim to be brought should be extended on the basis that it would be just and equitable to do so, there is no requirement for the employment tribunal to be satisfied that there was a good reason for the delay.
Time may be extended even in the absence of an explanation for the delay. However, any explanation or apparent reason for the delay and the nature of any such reason are relevant matters to which the tribunal ought to have regard, according to the Court of Appeal.
It is not essential for a claimant to set out the reason for delay in commencing proceedings and it will not be determinative of the issue of whether or not time should be extended, but it will in almost every case be a relevant factor to be taken into account by a tribunal.