Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs v Serra Garau UKEAT/0348/16

The EAT has held that a second early conciliation (EC) certificate issued for the same matter as the first will not extend a claimant's time limit for instituting tribunal proceedings.

In this case, HMRC gave Mr Garau notice of termination of his employment, which was due to expire on 30 December 2015.

On 12 October 2015, Mr Garau contacted Acas for the first time using the mandatory EC procedure, and Acas issued an EC certificate on 4 November 2015.

The Claimant contacted Acas again on 28 March 2016. The next day, 29 March 2016, would have been the expiration of the primary three-month limitation period, subject to the implementation of the EC regime.

A second certificate was issued on 25 April 2016, and Mr Garau issued his claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination on 25 May 2016.

The ET held that the claim was issued on time, as Mr Garau had instituted procedings on the last day of the second period of EC. HMRC duly appealed, arguing that the second certificate was unnecessary and had no effect on the limitation period for Mr Garau's claim.

The EAT agreed with HMRC, and held that only one period of EC is required: provisions relating to extension of time limits apply solely to the first, mandatory certificate. In this case, the first EC period had concluded before the limitation period for his claims had started to run; and a second, voluntary period of EC would have had no impact on the time limits.

This case provides helpful clarification on the time extension provisions, particularly when the period of EC arises prior to the primary limitation period.