Employment tribunal time limits

  • Employment Tribunal
Tribunal Time Limit
Peninsula Logo

Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

As an employer, there may be times when you face legal challenges from your employees. These can be difficult to manage, time consuming and stressful for employers.

There are also strict time limits around making a legal claim to an employment tribunal. If you're not aware of these you could find yourself in trouble with the court. So, it's important that both you and your employees are aware of these.

In this guide we'll look at when an employee can make a claim, how long they have to do so and the legal rules around this.

When might you have to go to an employment tribunal?

There are many instances when an employee can raise a claim to an employment tribunal. This is usually when they believe that they have been treated unfairly. Either by their current or potential employer.

Examples of unfair or unlawful treatment include:

Employment tribunals are a government court meaning their decisions are legally binding.

What is a tribunal time limit?

A tribunal time limit is the length of time an employee has to make a claim to a tribunal following an incident of unfair treatment. There are strict time limits that employees must adhere to, to make their claim valid.

This period usually starts immediately after an incident occurs. Or begins following the effective date of termination. However, it does depend on the circumstances of the claim itself.

Before the claim can be taken to an employment tribunal, the employee must notify ACAS. This should be done within the time limits.

How long do employees have to make a claim?

Most claims have a time limit period of 3 months less one day. This begins from the date of the incident.

For example, if an employee is unfairly dismissed on January 1st, the time limit starts on this date. To work out the limitation date, you should add three months onto the effective date of termination. This means the exact time limit ends on the 31st March.

Time limits can sometimes vary depending on the specific case. This occurs when a Tribunal covers issues like redundancy claims or equal pay. In these very limited circumstances employees may have six months less one day from the date of the incident.

The time limit may be affected if:

  • The claimant is suffering from an ‘incapacity’.
  • The employer has deliberately concealed an issue around equal pay.
  • The claimant has been engaged on a series of contracts
  • There has been a fundamental change to the claimant’s employment contract.
  • The business has changed ownership and the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 apply.
  • The claimant is a member of the armed forces.

What happens if the employee goes over the time limit?

There may be times when an employee misses their tribunal claim deadline. If the do miss this date, then they must submit an application to the court as soon as possible.

The court does have jurisdiction to consider claims made outside of these strict time frames. However ,there are only a few specific instances when this is allowed.

Unfair dismissal claims

For cases involving unfair dismissal, the claimant must show that it was not 'reasonably practicable' for the claim to be presented soon after the termination date.

In this instance however, the burden of proof is on the employee.

Employees may still be entitled to wages when making a claim of unfair dismissal. This is known as 'interim relief'.

Employees can only apply for interim relief if they've been dismissed for:

  • Trade union activities.
  • Acting as a workers’ representation.

Employees have 3 months minus one day to make a claim. They do not need to contact ACAS during this time, but their legal representation may advise that they do so. ACAS services are however free of charge which is appealing to many claimants.

Discrimination claims

In discrimination claims, an employee may be granted an extension past their deadline date if it is 'just and equitable' to do so. While this agreement is broader than most others, Tribunals are reluctant to grant this extension. It is usually seen as a last act or last resort.

In most cases it is up to the claimant to explain the exceptional circumstances behind their need for an extension. This means they must explain why they failed to report the issue following their the date of the discriminatory act, or last act if there were a series of them.

If the court believes that the case could have been reported within the relevant time period they may advise against an extension.

Early conciliation

There are some instances when the time limit can be extended. This is done via the ACAS early conciliation process. Early conciliation is now a compulsory step that must be taken before all claims can proceed to an employment tribunal.

Reaching an agreement through the ACAS early conciliation process, can help you avoid a potentially costly tribunal claim. It is also possible to extendthrough early conciliation.

This can happen because:

  • The period between an employee contacting ACAS and ACAS issuing an early conciliation certificate doesn't count.
  • The time limit would have expired between ACAS's first notice period and the receipt of the certificate.

This time limit extends to one month after receipt of the certificate.

As an employer, you should try to avoid tribunal claims as much as possible. Employment tribunal cases can lead to costly legal fees due to legal advisers and compensation payouts. They are also time consuming and cause damage to your business' reputation.

Employment tribunal appeal time limits

After making a claim to an employment tribunal, a legally binding decision will be made. For most cases this will be the end of the tribunal claim. However, in others, one of the parties may be unhappy with the result.

An appeal can only be lodged for certain reasons. In these scenarios, they can act by making an appeal claim to the employment appeal tribunal.

For example, if a claimant is unhappy with the results of their unfair dismissal claim, they may lodge a notice of appeal against the decision. This must be done within 42 days of when a written or extended reason for the decision was sent.

Where written reasons were not reserved or requested, the time limit is 42 days from the date the written record of the judgment was sent to the parties.

An extension to this time limit will happen only in exceptional circumstances.

Get expert guidance from Peninsula on Tribunal time limits

Dealing with tribunal claims can be tricky. Especially when you consider the strict time limits in place.

If you fail you notice when a time limit starts, you and your business may face costly legal fees, increased business pressure and damage to your brand reputation.

Peninsula offers expert advice on managing Tribunal time limits. Our HR team offers unlimited 24/7 HR employment services which are available 365 days a year.

Want more information? Seek specialist advice from one of our HR advisors. For further information, call our telephone number 0800 029 4390

Related articles

  • A cafe worker handing food and drink to customer smiling


    National Living Wage

    In this guide, we'll discuss what the National Living Wage is, what employees are entitled to, and the consequences of incorrectly paying wages.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Pay & Benefits
  • a woman and a man high fiving by a window



    Read our guide on EAP’s. Discover what they are, what they include, and the benefits it can bring to your company.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Pay & Benefits
  • A woman typing into a calculator at a desk


    Salary Sacrifice

    In this guide, we'll discuss what a salary sacrifice is, the different salary sacrifice schemes, and its advantages and disadvantages.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Pay & Benefits
Back to resource hub

Try Brainbox for free today

When AI meets 40 years of Peninsula expertise... you get instant, expert answers to your HR and Health & Safety questions

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.

International sites

© 2023 Peninsula Business Services Limited. Registered Office: The Peninsula, Victoria Place, Manchester, M4 4FB. Registered in England and Wales No: 1702759. Peninsula Business Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for the sale of non-investment insurance contracts.

Cyber Essential Logo
BAFE SP205 Registration
ISO 27001 and 9001 accredited company.
The Sunday Times - Top Track 250.
Glassdoor 2018 Best Places To Work.