Employer deadlines in the Employment Tribunal: what are they and what if I miss them?
Employers should have a working knowledge of deadlines in the Employment Tribunal to be ready to deal with one if a claim lands, and to know when they can forget about an issue after time passes.
On the employee side of things, usually they will have three months less one day to initiate ACAS Early Conciliation and, if that concludes without settlement, at least one month after that to actually submit their claim.
The next deadline is then critical for employers: they will have 28 days from the date the claim is issued to submit a response.
This isn’t 28 days from when you receive the claim – the issue date is when the Tribunal processes the paperwork and sends the claim out to the parties. Usually the correspondence from the tribunal will set out the specific date the response is due.
It is possible to apply for an extension to this date, for instance if the claim was delivered to the office whilst it was closed and so time was lost, but that application must be submitted sooner rather than later. However, you still need a very good reason for requesting it and if you haven’t got a response by the deadline, a response should be submitted before the 28 days expire.
If this deadline is missed, it still possible to apply to submit the response out of time, though you again need to evidence why the response is being submitted late. Again, you will need a particularly persuasive excuse – simply forgetting isn’t likely to get you very far here. The deadlines are strict, so whilst you wont necessarily be automatically struck out, missing this massively increases the risk here.
If the deadline passes without any action at all on the part of the employer, then the tribunal may issue a judgment in default in which case the employer’s ability to challenge this is very limited. So, by not submitting the response in time, an employer risks losing the claim without ever having a chance to defend it.
Once the response is out of the way, there will be case management directions to deal with – these are basically tasks to be completed in preparation of the final hearing. Employers will need to collate all relevant evidence by a particular date, and usually it is the employer’s responsibility so create the bundle of evidence to be used in the tribunal. There will then also be deadline for witness statements to be exchanged.
These deadlines are somewhat flexible and although initially set by the tribunal, can be amended by mutual agreement between the parties. However, these are ignored at your peril and if you were to consistently miss a deadline, a tribunal can make an order that unless you comply your response may be thrown out.
If you were to fail to comply with the deadlines consistently and/or an unless order, then your response will likely be thrown out. So, whilst there is a degree of flexibility, the deadlines should be respected and a proactive approach is needed if you know you will struggle to comply with certain deadlines. Just letting them pass and then casually trying to change them after the event opens you up to the risk of sanctions from the tribunal.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article, including how we can help represent you in the Tribunal, then please contact the Employment Team on 01274 864999.
Author: Jonothan Scollen, Employment Law Solicitor at Howarths