Where an employee has a claim for unfair dismissal, redundancy payments, discrimination or a range of other employment-related issues, they can bring a claim by lodging a complaint. They can do this:
Complaints must be made in writing using the appropriate form and sent within the appropriate time limit. The complaint should be responded to by an employer within the appropriate time limit.
An employee can bring the following claims by presenting a complaint to the Employment Tribunal:
The time limit for presenting a complaint to the Employment Tribunal differs depending on the type of complaint being made, the most common time limit being three months.
Note, however, that Acas Early Conciliation in effect means that the time limit for bringing a claim is now often a month longer, and sometimes a month plus two weeks longer.
The consequences to the employee for failing to send their application to the Employment Tribunal within the appropriate time limit can be severe as it could result in their claim being struck out. Although the Employment Tribunal has the power to extend the time limit, it will only do so in exceptional circumstances.
It is therefore important for an employer faced with an Employment Tribunal claim to know the rules regarding time limits as they could raise the point that the employee has failed to make their claim in time as part of their response (defence). The rules are complex and we suggest you obtain legal advice - check this website to see what might be available.
The most common complaints and appropriate time limits are the following:
The complaint must be presented within three months starting with (and including) the effective date of termination. In the majority of cases this date will correspond to the last day on which the employee worked. For example, an employee dismissed on 2 September must submit a claim on or before 1 December. Otherwise, the claim will most likely be time barred and not allowed to proceed.
Claims must generally be made within six months starting with (and including) the effective date of termination, but there are specific time periods involved which are complicated and need be approached on a case-by-case basis.
Any complaints of discrimination must be brought within three months starting with the date the act or acts occurred. For example, an employee discriminated against on 2 September must submit a claim on or before 1 December. Otherwise, the claim will most likely be time barred and not allowed to proceed. The rules for allowing claims in late are, however, less strict for discrimination claims. There are also complex rules regarding continuing acts of discrimination and specific legal advice should be taken in such a situation.
No specific time limit is allocated if an employee is still working for their employer. If the employee has left their employer then the claim should be brought at an Employment Tribunal within six months of the employee leaving employment. This time limit may be extended if the employer has deliberately concealed information regarding rates of pay.
Alternatively, if an equal pay claim is begun at a court (in England and Wales or Northern Ireland) then an employee will have six years from the date that the employee leaves employment.
There is currently a six-year limitation period (five years in Scotland) regarding claims for arrears of remuneration and/or damages.
Claims must be brought at an Employment Tribunal within three months starting with (and including) the date of the unlawful deduction or within three months starting with the last in a series of deductions. In England, Wales and Scotland, changes have been made to limit the scope of claims for unlawful deductions from wages (which include salary, commission, bonuses and holiday pay). Employees are limited to claiming no more than 2 years of unpaid wages in England, Wales and Scotland. There is presently no limit to claiming unpaid wages in Northern Ireland.
Claims must be brought within three months starting with (and including) the effective date of termination.
Before an employee can begin a tribunal claim in England, Wales or Scotland, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) must provide 'Early Conciliation'. This is a free dispute resolution service that helps resolve workplace disputes.
An employee who wants to start a claim must first send Acas certain 'prescribed information' about their dispute. They can use a form to do this, which is available from Acas.
Acas will then contact the employee to confirm whether they want to use the scheme to try to resolve the dispute. If so, Acas will have a month to try to resolve it. In the meantime, the time limits for starting an Employment Tribunal claim will be 'frozen'.
If a settlement cannot be reached, Acas will give the employee an Early Conciliation certificate. This certificate will show that Acas believes a settlement will not be possible.
Acas will also provide a certificate if either you or the employee refuses to use Early Conciliation, or if either of you cannot be contacted.
The employee will need the certificate in order to start a claim at an Employment Tribunal.
When to use Early Conciliation
Acas will offer the scheme for most types of claims, such as those involving unfair dismissal, discrimination, redundancy payments, deduction of wages and unpaid holiday pay.
The scheme will not apply to a small number of claims, such as where there is little time left to make a claim, making it impractical. Further, the scheme will not apply if the employee has already referred the dispute to Acas, or if the dispute involves multiple claims.
If you're responding to a potential claim, you can also ask Acas for Early Conciliation. You will need to contact Acas and give details of the employee using a request form from the Acas website.
If you request Early Conciliation, note that the time limit for making a claim will not be frozen and there will be no time limit for it to end.
See thefor more information on the scheme.
Before employees begin a tribunal claim in Northern Ireland, the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) can provide a Pre-Claim Conciliation service. This is a free dispute resolution service that helps resolve workplace disputes. Although the service is currently voluntary, it is expected to become a requirement.
The LRA also offer a conciliation service after a claim has started.
See thewebsite for more information.
The complaint must be made in writing using the appropriate Employment Tribunal form and should set out the grounds upon which the employer or employee seeks relief and the issues that the Employment Tribunal must consider. There are other specific pieces of information that must also be provided. It is not sufficient for somebody to just state, for example, 'I was unfairly dismissed'. The employee must state why they think the dismissal was unfair.
Should there be an issue that has not been stated clearly, the Employment Tribunal has the power to permit amendments altering the basis of the claim or adding or substituting the respondent, who is the person or persons against whom the complaint is being made.
In deciding whether or not to grant an amendment or not, the Employment Tribunal will have regard to any injustice or hardship on the employer that may be caused as a result of allowing or refusing the amendments.
An employee must have been continuously employed for 2 years (or one year in Northern Ireland) before qualifying to make a complaint for unfair dismissal. However, note that in certain circumstances an employee who has been dismissed before obtaining the necessary qualifying period of service may have their termination date extended so that they in fact obtain the requisite qualifying period. See the section.
An employee who has not obtained the required qualifying period of service may still make a complaint to the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal on any of the following grounds:
An employee can bring a claim for discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation and/or religion or belief (England, Wales and Scotland) or religious belief or political opinion (Northern Ireland) regardless of the amount of time that the employee has been employed.
A response (defence) must be received by the Employment Tribunal within 28 days from the day that the Employment Tribunal sends you a copy of the employee's claim (Form ET 1). You must use form ET 3 when filing your response.
If it is not possible for you to fill in the form in time, you can ask the Employment Tribunal to extend the time limit.
For claims in England, Wales and Scotland, you must ask for the extension in writing before or after the original 28-day time limit. You must also give the employee a copy of the application for an extension. If the employee wishes to oppose it, they must do so within 7 days of receiving it. Either party can request for an employment judge to deal with the application at a hearing.
For claims in Northern Ireland, you must ask for this extension in writing as soon as possible within the 28-day time limit. You must also provide full reasons why you are asking for the extension. The chairman will then decide whether to grant you one.
See thewebsite for more information on handling Employment Tribunal claims.