The rule of thumb is that an employee gets three months to bring a tribunal claim. This can be extended in a convoluted variety of ways, but generally you’re mad not to at least bung in a form during this period. Get sacked on the 2nd December, you’ve got until midnight on the 1st March to get your claim to the tribunal offices. I know that I’ve faxed a tribunal claim at ten pm on the last day, and gone home suffering from palpitations. This chap’s representative was not so lucky, submitting a claim online only for it to arrive at eight seconds past midnight.
There are two issues to come out of this, the first of which is whether three months is enough. Sue someone for personal injury, you get three years, sue them on a contract you get six years. Why the very short timescale for unfair dismissal? This is especially true when the fact you’ve been sacked is likely to have turned your life upside down anyway, and you may be a bit too busy signing on, going to interviews and paying the bills to fill that form in. Limitation periods in general are a good thing, but let’s all take a step back: would six months really cause anyone any problems? No.
The second point is that a Claimant would, again, be mad to use a representative that is unregulated. This representative won’t be insured, qualified, or regulated by any body to which you can make complaints. In practice I once saw a no-win/no-fee representative under-settle a Claimant’s case without her authority, then promptly go into liquidation without paying her anything at all. Solution? None. If you’ve a tribunal claim, then you should:
- See if your home insurance includes legal expenses insurance – bingo, your case is paid for;
- See if a non-profit organisation, like your local law centre, CAB, or a charity will do it;
- Ask all your friends if they know a good solicitor for employment law; or if none of them do:
- Find one you like the look of that specialises in it. Employment isn’t something you can do as a sideline. If you think your last solicitor would be a good choice because he did such a thorough job of your conveyancing, and because his musty office reminds you of visits to your grandparents when you were small, then think again.
I don’t want to be unfair, there are no doubt many good non-solicitor organisations out there doing a good job. Until the cowboys pack up and leave town though, steer clear.