Received an Employment Complaint? Don't Delay!
26th April 2017Back to articles
A recent case (Office Equipment Systems Limited v Hughes) illustrates the danger of an employer sitting on their hands when notified of Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings and the wisdom of seeking legal advice immediately.
By failing to act, an office equipment company jeopardised its right to defend itself against a substantial claim.
Ms Hughes had complained to an ET of unfair dismissal, failures to pay her wages and holiday pay, sex discrimination and breach of contract. Despite being warned of the consequences of failing to take prompt action, her employer, Office Equipment Systems Limited, missed the deadline for responding to her claim.
In subsequently seeking an extension of time, it explained that a salesman, upon whom the woman's complaints were largely focused, was seriously ill in hospital at the relevant time.
The ET, however, rejected that excuse and refused to extend time, finding that there had been a deliberate and intentional decision on the company's part not to comply with the deadline.
The company's plea that Ms Hughes had never been its employee was also ruled without merit and judgment on all aspects of liability was entered in her favour.
In upholding Office Equipment Systems' challenge to that ruling, however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal noted that the ET had failed to consider its alternative defence that Ms Hughes had been absent from work for almost a year and was thus in repudiatory breach of contract.
The case was remitted to the same ET for consideration of the merits of that defence and whether it justified an extension of time.
Taking legal advice early in such proceedings is strongly recommended for employee and employer alike, as failure to adhere to the strict time limits involved can be fatal to one's case.
Contact Rachel Fereday or Maxine Nutting in Devizes on 01380 722311 for advice on any aspect of ET claims and procedures.