Employees should err on the side of caution as tribunal rules are as clear as mud
All employees wishing to bring a tribunal claim must first attempt conciliation through Acas. The easiest way of initiating early conciliation is online.
Time limits for bringing claims are very important and generally speaking are three months less a day from the triggering act. For example if an employee is dismissed on 18th May 2014 they have until 17th August 2014 to lodge their claim in the tribunal.
The new rules about early conciliation state that once early conciliation has been initiated (day A) the time limit for bringing the claim in the tribunal is paused. In short if the original time limit for brining a claim is less then one month after day A then there is an automatic extension of one month after the conciliation certificate is received. However, the wording of the new rules creates some uncertainty because the meaning is one month is not clear.
It is not clear from the interpretation of the new tribunal rules whether the one month extension means corresponding dates e.g. 5th August to 5th September or in the same way as the original 3 month limits e.g. 5th August to 4th September.
There are differing opinions about the interpretation of the new rules, for example:
HM Courts and Tribunal Services favours the original 3 month rule.
Acas appear to favour the original 3 month rule as evidenced by the manner in which they are sending out conciliation certificates, for example an employee who initiates early conciliation on 19th April 2014 will receive the conciliation certificate on 18th May 2014.
However, the corresponding date rule is supported by dispute resolution charity, YESS.
The interpretation of the new rules is, in the end, up to a tribunal or court, however for now I strongly urge employees not to leave the lodging of a tribunal claim to the last minute and to err on the side of caution.
The conciliation certificate will not confirm the date that the employee must lodge their tribunal claim and this could be very tricky for employee’s without legal representation to calculate. This could mean that employees find themselves in a position where they have missed the time limit by which to bring a claim and prevented from doing so in the tribunal.
Should you have any questions on this topic please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.