Court of Appeal rule on 88 second lateness
The Court of Appeal has ruled that a case of unfair dismissal cannot proceed because the disgruntled employee missed the deadline for submission of his complaint by 88 seconds.
The case is that of one Mr Beasley, who was dismissed from his employment at National Grid after over thirty years with the company in its various forms. Owing to confusion surrounding how long after dismissal the window for complaints remained open, he did not realise he had to meet a three-month deadline and submit his complaint to the Employment Tribunal until the day before it was due – at midnight on 6th May 2006. Various technical and informational delays ensued with his complaint process which meant that he did not submit his complaint until the actual moment of the deadline, and it was only received by the Employment Tribunal system at one minute and twenty-eight seconds after midnight.
The Tribunal declared that it would not consider the complaint because it had been submitted out of time. Mr Beasley appealed to the Employment Tribunal and then to the County Court, being rejected both times, before turning to the Court of Appeal where he has been likewise unsuccessful. In his judgment, Lord Justice Tuckey commented that Mr Beasley could have reasonably submitted the application on time, as he was, by his own admission, in no doubt about what was required for over twenty-four hours before the deadline. However, the judge added, “I recognise… that this was a harsh decision. With legislation less strictly worded this is a case which might easily have passed over a time bar on some equitable basis: the respondent was not prejudiced by the delay and 88 seconds is, in any event, neither here nor there. But the plain fact is that section 111(2) does impose a harsh regime.”
Tuckey LJ also referred to another similar case where a complaint was submitted eleven minutes late because the appellant’s printer had broken down. The judge in that case had commented that the possibility of equipment failure was “one of the risks of life which has to be taken” in cases where a submission was left until the very last minute.