Employment tribunal claims – procedure
Employers may be familiar with employees seeking extensions of time to lodge late employment tribunal claims, for a variety of reasons. In MTN-1 v Daly, the EAT was faced with a case where the boot was on the other foot, and it was the employer who needed more time.
The employee brought an unfair dismissal claim against their small employer. The claim was sent to the company’s registered office – their accountant’s office. It was then left on the CEO’s desk, who didn’t open the envelope. The Covid pandemic had resulted in the company’s offices being closed and a cash flow crisis. Due to his ADHD and depression and being in a ‘very dark place’ mentally, the CEO had hyper-focussed on the business and also a sick friend who was in a Covid-related coma. Even when he knew about the claim, the CEO did not engage with it due to this hyper-focussing. The tribunal issued default judgment in the employee’s favour. The company’s appeal against this judgment was lodged after 4pm on the last day, and so was late.
The EAT extended the time limit to allow the appeal. They accepted that the CEOs mental health, and the resultant hyperfocus, was the reason the appeal was late. They said that but for this, the appeal would not have been granted. Companies must expect to be sent correspondence at a registered office address and put in place processes to ensure it is dealt with appropriately.
This case shows that employers can also avail themselves of an extension of time in the right case. However it is a reminder that only really cogent reasons will ever justify an extension of time, whichever foot the boot is on.