The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) Rules state that the time limit for appealing a judgment of the Employment Tribunal is 42 days from the date on which the outcome was sent to the parties.

The EAT does have the power to extend the 42-day time limit. However, extensions of time are usually only granted in exceptional cases.

In a recent case, the Court of Appeal considered when the EAT time limit will start to run in situations where an Employment Tribunal sends its judgment to the wrong person or address.

In two recent cases the written reasons were sent by the Tribunal to the claimants’ former solicitors by mistake.

Both claimants filed appeals against the Employment Tribunal’s judgment. However, they were both ruled out of time on the grounds that the time limit started to run when the written reasons were sent out, notwithstanding the fact that they were sent to the wrong address. The Claimants’ appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal upheld both appeals, granting both parties an extension of time to lodge their individual appeals.

Although, the Court of Appeal considered that the 42-day limitation period started to run from the date the Tribunal sent the written reasons. The court held that in such cases, the party affected by the Tribunal’s mistake should not be put in a worse position than if it was sent correctly. As a result, the EAT should exercise its discretion to allow the 42-day time limit to start from the date that the Tribunal correctly re-sent the written reasons or, in cases where the affected party receives the written reasons from another source (such as their opponent), time would run from the date of receipt.

However, the court noted that there would be cases where the affected party had been put on notice that a mistake has occurred, or where they might reasonably suspect that one has occurred (for example, because of the passage of time): such parties are expected to take reasonable steps to obtain a copy and failure to do so could reduce the extension of time that they might be given. Reasonable steps are likely to include writing to and calling the Tribunal and, possibly, requesting that the opponent sends a copy.

This case provides helpful guidance on observing the time limit for appealing a judgment when a mistake occurs by a Tribunal; however it is likely that such situations will be few and far between.