A Claimant must contact ACAS before submitting a claim form to Tribunal. ACAS will then speak to both parties and try and resolve the matter. If the matter is not resolved during a specified number of days, known as the early ACAS conciliation period, the conciliator will bring the early conciliation period to a close and issue a certificate to the Claimant. This certificate will include a unique reference number; the Claimant must provide this when submitting their claim to the Employment Tribunal.
The Employment Tribunal may reject a claim form if it doesn’t contain one of the following;
- An early conciliation number.
- Confirmation that the claim doesn’t institute any relevant proceedings.
- Confirmation that one of the early conciliation exemptions applies.
In the case of Sterling v United Learning Trust, the EAT upheld an Employment Tribunal’s decision that the Claimant’s claim had been submitted out of time and therefore it had no jurisdiction to hear a claim. The Claimant’s claim was therefore not heard.
Facts of the case
The claimant was dismissed on the 20 February 2014. Following a period of ACAS Early Conciliation, the Claimant’s deadline by which to submit a claim to Tribunal, was 5 July 2014.
The Claimant submitted her claim on the 1 July. It was thought she had not written the correct ACAS Early Conciliation number on the claim form. The Tribunal returned the claim form to the Claimant but incorrectly addressed it. The Claimant therefore didn’t respond to the Tribunal until the 7 July 2014. The Tribunal Service therefore regarded the claim form as being submitted on this date.
The Employment Judge subsequently threw the claim out on the basis it was out of time.
The Claimant appealed the decision on two grounds;
- She would have submitted the claim on time if the Tribunal had not sent the form back to the wrong address.
- She didn’t think there was an issue with her original claim form.
The EAT upheld the Tribunal’s decision that the claim was out of time.
In this case the Claimant’s representative failed to raise any arguments that it was not reasonable practicable for her to present the claim on time after the initial rejection. If the representative had done this, the outcome for the Claimant may have been different; she may have been able to proceed with her claim.