Don’t Launch Employment Proceedings Without Legal Advice

Two reasons why you should always seek legal advice before launching employment proceedings are; that strict time limits apply and that a failure to properly focused your claims at the outset can results in all or some of them being dismissed without a hearing. A case concerning a Sales Executive who was dismissed shortly after returning from maternity leave shows the issues that can arise.

The woman, who was representing herself, lodged proceedings with an Employment Tribunal (ET) which were initially confined to complaints of Unfair Dismissal and Maternity Discrimination. However, at a very late stage, she sought to amend her case to include a claim that she had been dismissed for making a protected disclosure, commonly known as whistleblowing.

What happened next?

In refusing permission for that amendment, the ET found that it sought to introduce a significant change to her case, together with a substantial new issue, a considerable time after the expiry of the relevant time limit. The employer, having already put much work into the meeting the woman’s original case, would be prejudiced by the late amendment.

In upholding the woman’s challenge to that ruling, however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal noted that an application to amend an existing claim, so as to allege a further reason why a dismissal was unfair, does not necessarily amount to the bringing of a new complaint.

It was not apparent from the ET’s ruling that it had carried out the required balancing exercise between the hardship and injustice that the woman and the employer would respectively suffer depending on whether he amendment was allowed. In those circumstances, it had failed to give adequate reasons for its decision. The question of whether the amendment should be permitted was sent back to a different ET for fresh consideration.

Our Employment Specialist, Lucy Watson, commented “This decision had emphasised the need to gain legal advice if you believe you have a claim in relation to your employment.” Furthermore, “seeking legal advice at an early stage will mean that you can comply with the strict deadlines set out by the Employment Tribunal and be able to submit a fully focused claim from the outset”.

Pruzhanskaya v International Trade & Exhibitors (JV) Limited. Case Number: UKEAT/0046/18

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