Stringing things out

One of my favourite ever dirty lawyer tricks involved the three month tribunal deadline for unfair dismissal. Employees are expected to appeal their dismissal, and if they don’t they can expect their compensation to be reduced at the tribunal. In recognition that this can take some time, if the appeal process is still ongoing at the time the three months expire then the limitation period is automatically extended for a further three months.

My advice to employers was obvious – if you’re about ten weeks into an appeal process anyway (which happens far more often than it should), hang on a bit and make sure they get the appeal outcome a day or two before the three months expire. Bingo! The employee doesn’t dare bring the claim before the appeal outcome, because of my oft-repeated dire warnings about compensation being reduced, and the limitation period isn’t extended because the disciplinary process was complete by the time the three months ran out. The result? The employee has a one day window to fully digest the appeal outcome letter, fill in his tribunal form and get it to the tribunal.

Don’t judge me too harshly. I always knew that if they put the claim in late they’d probably get it accepted anyway, on the basis it wasn’t “reasonably practicable” to get it in before. The fact that my letters suggesting the opposite may have made the odd one give up his claim – is it really my fault? Really?

Of course it was. But that was my job.

Telling an employee the same thing now would be naughty practice, as only now (a full three years after the rules came in) is there authority to say the claim will be accepted in this situation.

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