Extension of time to lodge an employment tribunal claim
There are strict time limits for lodging tribunal claims, but a tribunal can extend time in certain limited circumstances. What if an employee lodges their claim form late because of poor advice?
DHL Supply Chain dismissed Mr Fazackerley for gross misconduct. He went to ACAS for advice from their helpline. ACAS advised him to appeal using the company appeal procedures. He did this, but the appeal hearing was delayed through no fault of either party. By the time Mr Fazackerley lodged his claim for unfair dismissal it was too late – the three-month time limit had expired.
The employment tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal both found that the ACAS advice to follow the internal procedures was good advice in theory. However, without also giving advice on the time limits for lodging a claim, it was wrong. As Mr Fazackerley had relied on the advice from ACAS, it was not 'reasonably practicable' for him to lodge his claim within the normal time limits. He could pursue his claim.
It was relevant here that Mr Fazackerley was advised by ACAS rather than a 'skilled' advisor, like a solicitor. In a classic example of ‘doublethink’, the EAT also commented that the tribunal could perfectly properly have come to the opposite decision – sending a signal to employees not to rely on this case as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.