Access to justice: a bureaucratic nightmare

14 May 2015 An EAT has ruled that an employment tribunal was entitled to reject a claim due to an early conciliation number being incorrect.

15 May 2015| News

14 May 2015

An EAT has ruled that an employment tribunal was entitled to reject a claim due to an early conciliation number being incorrect.

The Claimant in Sterling v United Learning Trust submitted her ET1 four days before the expiry of the limitation period, with an incorrectly written ACAS early conciliation number.

The Employment Tribunal stated that Rule 10(1)(c)(i) of the Employment Tribunal Rules obliges claims without early conciliation numbers to be rejected. The claims that the Claimant had been unfairly dismissed, automatically unfairly dismissed and that her former employer had been in breach of contract by failing to pay her notice pay, were held to be out of time and therefor rejected on the basis that is was not within the ETs jurisdiction to consider them.

However Rule 10(2) provides that a notice of rejection with instructions of how to apply for a reconsideration of the rejection be returned to the claimant. This was sent to the Claimant, but without a house number on the letter. As a result it arrived at a neighbour’s house, and although the claimant re-submitted it immediately, the letter could not be returned before the end of the time period.

The claimant’s representative failed to argue that is was not reasonably practicable for the employee to have lodged the claim in time.

The EAT held the ruling; “though not without the sympathy for Mrs Sterling that I have expressed this appeal is rejected.”

Director of IER Carolyn Jones said; “This is no less than a bureaucratic denial of access to justice. Whatever happened to the long established principle that the court should consider the original intention of the legislation? The EAT is saying that navigating legal hurdles is more important than delivering justice. We always feared that the conciliation process would be used more as an additional hurdle than as a way of improving access to justice”.