Will an employment tribunal make exceptions to the three-month application rule?


An employment tribunal is a type of court, which only hears claims concerning employment. The decision to go to an employment tribunal is usually a last resort, and it is typical that both parties have tried to resolve the issue through the proper procedures in the workplace.

Unfair dismissal claims

The general rule is that the claim should be issued within three calendar months of the act about which the complaint is being made, and this rule is strictly enforced. Therefore, the best advice for an employee is to obtain expert legal advice early on in the process.

For example, if an employee wants to claim unfair dismissal, the time limit will run from the date their employment was terminated, and that date will count as day one of the time limit. Similarly, if an employee wants to make a claim for constructive dismissal, then the time limit will run from the date of their resignation.

Successful extensions

There have been rare extensions to the three-month limit, for reasons such as:

  • The employee being ill
  • Information from the employment tribunal staff being incorrect
  • Delays due to the postal service
  • New and crucial evidence about the dismissal arising at a later date

Failures to extend the time limit

In contrast, extensions to the three-month time limit have not been allowed for reasons such as:

  • Ignorance about the possibility of making a claim e.g. it is not acceptable to claim ‘I did not know about the three-month rule’
  • A solicitor giving the claimant incorrect advice
  • Waiting for other legal action connected with the dismissal to end before claiming - filing of the initial ET1 form can be done even if you are still going through your employer’s internal grievance procedures

Exceptions to the rule

There are exceptions to the three-month application rule, however. The following types of claims generally have a six-month time limit:

  • Redundancy payment
  • Equal pay
  • Unfair dismissal for taking part in lawful industrial action
  • Unlawful exclusion from a trade union

There is no charge for bringing a case to an Employment Tribunal, and many employment law solicitors will work on a no-win, no-fee basis if they feel you have a case. This means that in many cases a claim can be brought for free, with little or no risk on the part of the claimant, although it is worth noting that the Employment Tribunal can order you to pay costs if they feel your behaviour has been unreasonable.

For more information on no-win, no-fee litigation works, visit our information page.

Does it sound like you have an exceptional employment law claim? We can put you in touch with a local, recommended employment law solicitor. Call us free on 0800 1777 162 or fill in the web-form above.

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