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Early Conciliation: Welcome clarity from the EAT on extending time limits

20 April 2018 #Employment

In the recent case of Luton Borough Council v Haque (“Haque”) the EAT has clarified that the two sub-sections for extending limitation periods through Acas early conciliation apply sequentially, and not as alternatives.

Early conciliation is mandatory for the majority of tribunal claims. Given the intention for early conciliation being to allow parties to resolve a dispute prior to formal proceedings being issued, early conciliation gives two bases on which to extend the time limit to bring a claim:

  1. The first method stops the clock for limitation between the day early conciliation is commenced (“Day A”) and the date the Claimant receives their early conciliation certificate from Acas (“Day B”):
  2. The second method states that when limitation would (if not extended by this method) expire between Day A and one month after Day B, the limitation period is amended to one month after Day B.

In Haque, the Claimant was summarily dismissed on 20 June 2016. The Claimant was in early conciliation between 22 July 2016 and 22 August 2016. The claim form was then presented on 18 October 2016. Under the first method of extension set out above, the limitation period was extended to 20 October 2016, meaning the claim would be in time. However, under the second method of extension, one month after Day B was 22 September 2016, which would make the claim (on the face of it) out of time. The Respondent challenged the limitation issue, so the key issue was whether the two methods of extending time are alternative or sequential provisions.

The EAT agreed with the ET’s preliminary hearing ruling that the claim was in time and the two methods operate sequentially. The first method of extending limitation to stop the clock applies to all claims and is applied first (although, as we blogged previously on a non-binding ET decision, a limitation period which has yet to start may not get this benefit). Then, Claimants can use the second above method only if limitation would expire between Day A and one month after Day B. The effect of this is that Claimants will always have at least one month from the end of the early conciliation period to bring a claim- the one-month period applies from the amended date arising from the first method of extension.

The case brings welcome clarity for both Claimants and Respondents. Claimants now have binding authority to work out when limitation will expire, as both methods lead to one definitive date. For Respondents, it also means that they know from the outset how to work out the limitation periods and whether to challenge limitation at the outset of a case.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
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Helen Beech

Helen Beech

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