Will my employment claim run out of time when I refer it to ACAS?

If you wish to issue a claim in the employment tribunal, it is a necessity to first refer the claim/dispute to ACAS for early conciliation. Early conciliation is the process by which ACAS seeks to mediate/resolve a dispute without the need for a claim to be issued with the employment tribunal. This can save the parties both time and money, as well as reducing the burden upon the Tribunal system.

Limitation

Employment tribunal claims have a shorter limitation period (the period of time in which a prospective claimant has to pursue/issue a claim) than County Court claims. Generally, the period of time in which a prospective claimant has to issue an employment tribunal claim is 3 months less one day from the date of the incident/cause of the complaint (such as the date of the act of discrimination or dismissal). Therefore, it is imperative to act quickly.

Freezing time

In order to facilitate conciliation prior to the limitation period expiring, section 207B Employment Rights Act 1996 freezes a claim for limitation purposes. The freeze begins from the day after you refer your claim to the ACAS Early Conciliation Service, and ends on the date on which ACAS issues its early conciliation certificate (which provides a reference number for the claim/dispute).

In practice

In a recent employment tribunal case (J Ullah v Hounslow London Borough Council (2017), a prospective claimant referred his potential unfair dismissal claim to the ACAS Early Conciliation Service prior to the date of his dismissal. The prospective claimant referred his case to ACAS on 28 April 2015, the date of his dismissal was 7 May 2015. ACAS issued the early conciliation certificate on 28 May 2015. The prospective claimant submitted his claim to the employment tribunal on 3 September 2015. The respondent to the claim argued that the claim was out of time and the latest date by which the prospective claimant had to issue a claim was 28 August 2015.

The respondent calculated this on the basis that there had been a pause for limitation purposes between the date of the dismissal (7 May 2015) and the issuing of the early conciliation certificate (28 May 2015). Therefore, the 3-month period ran from 28 May 2015.

The claimant argued that there should be a period of 30 days added to the 3 months less one day date from the date of the dismissal. This was on the basis that the matter had been referred to the ACAS Early Conciliation Service and therefore the last date on which to issue a claim was 5 September 2015.

The tribunal rejected the claimant’s arguments. It stated that the correct interpretation of section 207B Employment Rights Act 1996 is for a pause between a period of days. It is not an addition of 30 days to the 3 months less one day limitation period.

While the time limits may be tight, the law allows extra time for attempting early conciliation. If you are considering making an employment tribunal claim, our employment team can advise you. Call today on 0800 988 7756 for a FREE CONSULTATION.

 

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