Despite COVID-19, the deadline for individuals to submit a claim to the Employment Tribunal has not changed, although Judges will consider matters in exceptional cases.
The recent case of Brophy v Lowri Beck Services Ltd considered whether an individual was permitted to continue with their claims, despite submitting those claims outside the limitation period.
Mr Brophy was employed by Lowri Beck Services Ltd as a meter reading operative. He is severely dyslexic, to the extent that he is heavily reliant on this brother for matters of an official nature.
In 2017, Mr Brophy was the subject of formal disciplinary proceedings due to leaving a meter in a dangerous condition. Following a disciplinary hearing, the Company telephoned Mr Brophy on 29th June 2017 to inform him that he was being dismissed for gross misconduct with immediate effect, following which a letter would be sent to him.
However Mr Brophy did not receive the letter until a week later on 6th July 2017, with the letter itself being dated 4th July 2017. The letter was slightly confusing as it stated:
“Further to the disciplinary hearing … and our telephone conversation on 29th June 2017, I am writing to inform you of my decision. I have no option but to dismiss you for gross misconduct. This dismissal will be with immediate effect from 29th June 2017”.
Mr Brophy mistakenly took 6th July 2017 as his termination date, resulting in his subsequent claims being submitted out of time. Accordingly the Company applied for the claim to be struck out. However Mr Brophy relied upon the fact that due to his dyslexic, he was unclear of his termination date due to the contradictory statements in his dismissal letter.
The matter reached the Court of Appeal with the matter being awarded in Mr Brophy’s favour, on the basis that as Mr Brophy was a vulnerable individual who has dyslexia, the dismissal letter dated 4th July 2017 was unclear and contradictory. In particular, the Court of Appeal stated that you cannot have a dismissal letter which was on any reasonable view ambiguous. As such, it was reasonable for Mr Brophy to consider 6th July 2017, the date he received the dismissal letter, as his effective date of dismissal, and therefore it was just and equitable to extend the limitation period.
Although matters of this nature are rare, it does raise the important point that dismissal letters must be clearly drafted and do not contain any contradictions about the effective date of dismissal. Similarly it also raises the important point for individuals not to leave matters to the last minute either, especially if there is any ambiguity about the date of dismissal.
Please contact us if you require any advice on any of the employment and HR issues referred to above. Please contact Sally Morris on 01905 610410 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any frequently asked questions.