Settlement Agreements and Time Limits

If an employee is offered a settlement agreement, they will need to weigh up the settlement offer against the employment rights they are forfeiting under the agreement. Settlement agreements are often used by employers following a decline in the relationship with an employee. There are often multiple factors for an employee to consider when deciding whether to accept an offer of settlement under an agreement. One factor we would always recommend considering is the stress involved in litigation in the Tribunal. It is a notoriously difficult process, particularly for employee claimants as it can be a very emotional process. Claimants will often feel very aggrieved about the breakdown of their working relationship with their employer. The Tribunal process is also complicated to navigate, especially without representation.

A recent case has highlighted the difficulty faced by Claimants in relation to time limits in the Tribunal. The Claimant, a Chinese national, worked on the checkout in a supermarket. She took three months of unpaid leave but failed to return after this period and she was dismissed by letter in September 2010. When she returned to the UK in November 2011, over a year after she was dismissed, she unsuccessfully applied for the same position that she previously held. She then wrote to the supermarket’s Chief Executive in April 2012 and received a response in May. She applied for another job in June 2012 but she received no response. The supermarket argued that there was no vacancy at this point.

She brought a claim for unfair dismissal and race discrimination which the supermarket resisted based on their merits and the fact that they argued that the claim was not in time. There was a pre-hearing review at which the Judge deemed that the dismissal had taken place in November 2011 as this was when the Claimant had read the letter. The Judge also decided that the last act of discrimination had taken place in April 2012. This meant that both claims were out of time. The Judge also said that the Claimant has not shown any reasons as to why it had not been reasonably practicable to present the unfair dismissal claim earlier and it would not be just and equitable to extend the time limit for the discrimination claim. Lastly, the Judge said that his decision would have been to throw the claims out anyway as they had no reasonable prospect of success.

The Claimant appealed this decision and said that the Judge should have taken account of the application she made in June. Had he done this, the Judge would have ruled that her claim relied on a series of continuing acts culminating in an event which would come within the three month time limit. Her appeal was rejected as she had not mentioned the June 2012 event in her claim form.

This case demonstrates the importance of adhering to Tribunal time limits. It also demonstrates the stress and upset that can result from Tribunal cases. This is certainly an important consideration when deciding whether or not to accept a settlement offer or pursue a claim in the Tribunal.

If you are involved in any type of dispute or need confidential advice on a settlement agreement or any other legal matter then please book a free consultation to suit you now.

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