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What is a month?

When an prospective claimant has received an Early Conciliation certificate from ACAS enabling them to proceed to lodging a claim time limit is extended by a minimum of one month. This provision is set out in section 207B of the Employment Rights Act 1996 which states.

But what is a “month” in respect to the limitation period for initiating the claim? Is it a the same date in the next month, a set period of 30 days or something else? The EAT in Tanveer v East London Bus & Coach Company Ltd has settled any doubt and found the correct interpretation is the corresponding date in the following month.

The actual details of the case are slightly more complex than the below suggests since it involved two separate Early Conciliation certificates and, in my view, also a potential negligence claim against the claimant’s solicitors.

However, for the purposes of the case the summary is a simple one. The claimant was dismissed on 20 March 2015 and within the relevant period contacted ACAS and the respondent agreed to early conciliation which in the event was unsuccessful. On 30 June 2015 an Early Conciliation certificate was issued and unfair dismissal proceedings were started on 31 July 2015 due to a mistake by the claimant’s solicitor. The question in this case was what day was day one in the case and what day did the month expire. For example, was day one the 30th June (the day it was issued) or 1 July (the next working day). The claimant argued for the latter but this was firmly rejected on the basis of the House of Lords’ decision in Dodds v Walker which applied a corresponding date principle.

What the case means is that if working out the deadline for a claim then one calendar month absolute latest date a claim must be issued is the corresponding date in the following month. Therefore, if a certificate were to be issued today (20 April) any unfair dismissal claim must be submitted by 20 May at the latest.

This case however highlights other good practice points for employee representatives and prospective claimants:

  1. Double check the work of solicitors on time limits, don’t just assume they are correct.
  2. Don’t leave claims the the last minute. In my own case whenever pursuing claim on behalf of union members I always aim to submit the claim 7 calendar days before an actual deadline to ensure any miscalculations do not affect a claim.

 

Cases referenced:

Tanveer v East London Bus & Coach Company Ltd [2016] UKEAT 0022_16_0802

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