Employment Law Speed Read – 08/05/18
8th May, 2018
This week we look at case where a Claimant presented his claim out of time, after relying on incorrect advice from ACAS.
DHL Supply Chain Limited v Mr S Fazackerley
In DHL Supply Chain Limited v Mr S Fazackerley, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that it was not reasonably practicable for a Claimant to present his claim in time, where he had relied on incorrect advice from ACAS.
On 15 March 2017, Mr Fazackerley (the Claimant) was dismissed for gross misconduct by DHL. DHL confirmed his dismissal in writing by letter dated 16 March 2017, which also advised of his right to appeal the decision.
About four days after receiving this letter, the Claimant contacted the ACAS helpline for advice. He was told by an ACAS advisor that before bringing proceedings against DHL, he should exhaust the internal appeal process. The Claimant was not told about obtaining an Early Conciliation (EC) Certificate nor did ACAS explain the statutory three-month limitation period that ran from the date of his dismissal.
Consequently, the Claimant lodged his appeal by letter dated 29 March 2017. The Claimant was not informed that his appeal had been unsuccessful until 22 June 2017. Four days later, the Claimant sought legal advice from a lawyer, obtained an EC Certificate and presented his claim to the Employment Tribunal (ET) on 19 July 2017.
Due to the amount of time that had passed since the Claimant’s dismissal, the claim was out of time.
The ET had to determine whether the Claimant should be afforded an extension of time, by assessing whether it was not reasonably practicable for him to present his claims within the three-month statutory time limit.
The ET reiterated that the fact that an internal process was ongoing, or delayed, was not in itself a reason to justify finding that it was not reasonably practicable to present a complaint in time. However, the ET found that the ACAS advice was erroneous as they had not explained the time limit. Consequently, it was not reasonably practicable for the Claimant to comply with the limitation period.
Further, the Claimant was entitled to rely on the advice from ACAS, and there was no unreasonable delay on the Claimant’s part when he was later made aware of the time limit.
Employment Appeal Tribunal
DHL appealed, arguing that the Claimant did not ask ACAS about how to institute a claim and failed to ask ACAS more questions when he had the opportunity to do so. Further, DHL argued that the ET had erred in finding that the ACAS advice was erroneous. Finally, they argued that the Claimant’s reliance on the advice had not impeded his ability to bring a claim in time.
The EAT held that the ET was entitled to take the view that ACAS’ advice was erroneous. The ET found that although most appeals are dealt with speedily, ACAS had failed to qualify their advice within the time limit. The ACAS advice had rendered it not reasonably practicable for the Claimant to bring his claim within the time limit and consequently, DHL’s appeal was dismissed.
It is of note that the EAT commented that a differently constituted ET may have come to a different view as to whether the ACAS advice affected the Claimant’s ability to bring his claim in time. Nonetheless, as the Employment Judge had not made a perverse decision in finding that it had, the original decision was upheld.
Therefore this case reiterates the position that a Claimant cannot just rely on ignorance of the time limits, or a long delayed appeal process in order to obtain an extension to present a claim. However, where a Claimant relies on incorrect advice by ACAS, their extension may be permitted.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our employment team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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