Time limit to bring a claim for unfair dismissal extended where erroneous advice was given

The EAT recently extended the deadline for an individual to bring a claim for unfair dismissal in DHL Supply Chain Limited v Fazackerley. The individual had relied on erroneous advice given by an advisory helpline. It was found not to be reasonably practicable for the individual to bring a claim within the statutory period as they had been advised to first exhaust the internal appeal procedures and were not informed of the relevant time limit to bring the claim.

The employee (“F”) was dismissed by his employer for gross misconduct. F sought advice from an advisory helpline and was told to exhaust the employer’s internal appeal process before considering any other form of action, including tribunal proceedings. The helpline failed to inform F of the statutory time limit for bringing a claim for unfair dismissal (three months from the date of dismissal) and instead advised F to only bring a claim once the appeal process had been completed.

F followed this advice and appealed the employer’s decision to dismiss him. The appeal hearing took place four months later. Upon learning the outcome of that appeal F decided to commence proceedings by lodging a claim for unfair dismissal against the employer which unknowingly to him was outside the three month statutory time limit.

The advice to exhaust the employer’s internal appeal process was not incorrect in itself, however the failure to advise F of the statutory time limit to bring a claim should have been explained to him and consequently the advice was wrong. On that basis, the EAT held that the claim was allowed to proceed as F had brought the claim within a reasonable period after learning of the relevant time limit.

It should be noted that, had F engaged solicitors and obtained this advice from them, a failure to meet the statutory time limit would be a result of the solicitor’s negligence and it is unlikely that the employee would have been able to rely upon the assertion that it was not reasonably practicable to make a claim within the time period. The judge in the EAT held that, ultimately, each case will turn on its own facts and also noted that employment tribunals should have regard to what (if anything) an employee knows about the right to complain to an employment tribunal and of the relevant time limit for making such a complaint.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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