If you receive notice of an Employment Tribunal (ET) complaint against you, we strongly advise that you seek professional legal advice as soon as possible. A recent case that reached the Court of Appeal shows the potentially dire consequences of any delay (Office Equipment Systems Limited v Hughes).
A woman who worked for an office equipment company complained to an ET that she had, amongst other things, been unfairly dismissed and subjected to sex discrimination by her employer. The deadline by which the company should have filed a response to her claim came and went and judgment was entered against it.
The company explained that the employee who would have dealt with the matter had been ill, but its belated attempt to obtain an extension of time and to set aside the judgment failed. The company thus had no opportunity to present its defences to the woman’s claim – that she was not an employee and that she was guilty of a repudiatory breach of her contract – before the judgment became conclusive and final.
The company was also debarred from putting forward arguments as to the amount of compensation the woman should receive (the remedies issue) and, in a draft ruling, the ET said that it was minded to award her in the region of £75,000.
In upholding the company’s appeal in respect of the remedies issue, the Court found that there was no reason why it should have been precluded from making submissions on the value of the woman’s claim after judgment on liability had been entered. An appropriate course would have been to invite the company to make submissions by a specified date and for an employment judge to then consider whether an oral hearing was required. It was unfortunate that this had not been done.
The case was remitted to the ET for reconsideration of the remedies issue.
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