The Employment Tribunal is designed to provide a remedy for workers who have received unlawful treatment in their place of work. With any tribunal claim – whether it concerns discrimination, unfair dismissal, unfair deductions from pay, or a dispute over redundancy payments – there are strict time limits and procedures which you need to stick to for your case to proceed.
The time limit for lodging a claim with the Employment Tribunal is three months, less one day, from the act or incident that you are looking to bring a case about. This time limit is strictly applied.
If you are planning to fight an unfair dismissal case, it is very important to accurately work out your effective date of termination (EDT), as this is the date from which the time limit will apply. If your employer dismisses you with notice then the EDT is the date that your notice comes to an end. If you were dismissed without notice then the EDT is the date on which you were told you had been dismissed. If you have any doubt about when your employment terminated then you should use the earliest possible date to calculate the time limit.
If you are pursuing another type of claim, such as unlawful discrimination, your case may involve a series of linked acts or incidents of discrimination that occurred over a period of time. If this is the case, then a claim must be brought within three months less one day of the last act in the series of acts.
With discrimination cases, the three-month time limit may be extended in exceptional circumstances if the tribunal believes that it is just and equitable to do so. These extensions are very rare, however, and decided on a case-by-case basis.
For equal pay claims, tribunal applications must be lodged within six months less one day of the termination of any contract of employment or the day of any transfer of employment.
With a few rare exceptions, a claim to the Employment Tribunal cannot be lodged unless you have submitted a request for ‘early conciliation’ (see below).
Early conciliation requires contact to have been made with ACAS (the government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) before an employment tribunal claim is lodged. You can do this over the phone or by completing a form online. Early conciliation usually lasts for four weeks, after which an early conciliation certificate is issued. The early conciliation certificate number must be inserted in the Employment Tribunal claim form, otherwise the form will be rejected and the claim may go out of time.
If you think you may have a case to take to the employment tribunal, contact your MiP national officer immediately – they will advise you on the merits of your case and the next steps to take.
Early Conciliation Explained
Early conciliation is a free service from ACAS, which attempts to resolve disputes between employers and employees through discussion. Although you must register an early conciliation request with ACAS before submitting a claim to the Employment Tribunal, there is no obligation to take part in conciliation if you don’t want to.
ACAS conciliators will not contact your employer unless you have agreed to conciliation. If you decide not to take part, an early conciliation certificate will be issued within four weeks, allowing you to go ahead with your tribunal claim.
Your MiP national officer or rep can represent during early conciliation talks, or accompany you to meetings.
Many cases are settled quickly via phone calls, without the need for meetings.
Unlike public tribunal hearings, early conciliation negotiations are completely confidential and details are not disclosed to anyone outside the process.
Early conciliation talks are limited to one month, but can be extended by a further two weeks if both parties agree. If no agreement is reached, an early conciliation certificate will be issued and claims can be taken to an Employment Tribunal.
For further information read theACAS guide to early conciliation.
Bernie Wentworth is employment law adviser with Thompsons Solicitors. Legal Eye does not offer legal advice on individual cases. MiP members in need of personal advice should immediately contact their MiP rep.