It is normally essential at all stages of an employment law claim to provide the necessary documentation and to meet the requisite deadlines. It is therefore sensible to put your case in the hands of solicitors, who have systems in place for ensuring time limits are met.
An appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) against a decision made by an Employment Tribunal (ET) must be lodged within 42 days after the decision is sent to the parties involved. This time limit is strictly applied, being regarded as a generous period compared with those that apply when making an appeal to the Court of Appeal.
In a recent case (Haydar v Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust), the Court of Appeal considered whether the EAT had been right to refuse a doctor’s request for an extension of time to appeal against an ET’s decision when the notice of appeal and accompanying documents would have been lodged in time had the package not been lost in the post. The doctor, who was acting without a solicitor, had left it until five weeks after the expiry of the time limit before telephoning the EAT to find out why he hadn’t heard anything. On learning that the package had not been received, he sent another copy. The notice was judged to be out of time, however, and his application for an extension was refused by the Registrar and, subsequently, by the EAT.
In ruling on the matter, the Court made reference to an earlier case in which the circumstances were similar (Peters v Sat Katar Co Limited). Peter Gibson LJ had granted the appellant an extension, but observed that had circumstances existed which showed that she knew, or ought to have known, how long she should wait before enquiring of the EAT why she had not received any acknowledgement, but had failed to act on that knowledge, that would have made a difference to his decision.
He went on to recommend that an information pack be provided together with the decision of the ET containing explicit guidance on making an appeal, including how long to wait before enquiring of the EAT why a notice of appeal has not been acknowledged. This recommendation was followed and the letter sent to the parties now draws attention to the relevant time limits and stresses that it is important to read the judgment booklet. This contains a passage in bold type telling litigants that they should contact the EAT if they have not received an acknowledgement of receipt of their notice of appeal within seven days.
In this case, the Court held that the delay of over five weeks beyond the specified deadline was serious or significant and there could not be said to be any good reason for it. If the doctor had read the judgment booklet as advised, his appeal would have been in time: even if he had missed the deadline by a short time, his case for an extension would have been strong. He had failed to do so, however, and had taken no steps to find out what had happened.
Another factor which made this case different from Peters was that the doctor had brought at least eight previous appeals to the EAT. He would, therefore, have known that it was the practice of the EAT to send a prompt acknowledgement of receipt, and he had also had several previous opportunities to read the judgment booklet. There was therefore no reasonable excuse for his failing to lodge the appeal in time.
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