In Ashcroft v Haberdasher's Askes' Boys School the EAT held that it was not reasonably practicable for an employee to bring a tribunal claim within the normal three month limitation period when his appeal against dismissal was rejected at 6pm on the last day of the three month period.
The school dismissed Mr Ashcroft for gross misconduct on 7 April 2006. He requested an internal appeal, which took place on 29 June 2006, but did not receive notice that his appeal was dismissed until around 6pm on 6 July 2006. He did not benefit from the automatic extension of time under the statutory procedures because, when the time limit expired at midnight on 6 July, there was no appeal pending. His tribunal claim form was presented on 11 August 2006.
The EAT held that the statutory procedures, in allowing for an extension of time in circumstances where a claimant missed a time limit because they reasonably assumed internal procedures were still ongoing, contained an assumption that there will not be an application to the tribunal before the expiry of an internal appeal period. Mr Ashcroft had, in reality, only 6 hours to bring his claim following notification of the outcome of his appeal and therefore it was not reasonably practicable for him to present it in time.
Impact on employers
Employers should be aware that employees are likely to benefit from an extension of time to file a claim in circumstances where the internal appeal process is only completed shortly before the expiry of the three-month time limit. This will particularly be the case if the Tribunal suspects that the employer sought to exploit time limits to its advantage by holding an appeal immediately prior to the time limit for lodging a claim.