Employment Tribunal claims have some of the shortest “limitation periods” of any civil action in the UK. This means that there is a very short time limit to bring a claim before the Tribunal. Delaying beyond that time limit means that a Claimant loses the right to claim, except in limited circumstances.
The short 3 month time limit is perhaps most problematic in claims for pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Women are, understandably, more focused on their pregnancy and new baby than seeking redress for discrimination at work. So despite an estimated 54000 women experiencing pregnancy or maternity discrimination each year, many find that by the time they feel equipped to take matters further, they are too late. The #givemesix campaign is asking for the time limit to be extended to 6 months for pregnancy discrimination claims in order to allow women extra breathing space.
Unless and until there is a change in the law, there are ways of ensuring that a Claimant complies with the time limit whilst reducing the strains and stresses of dealing with litigation at what can be an overwhelming time:
All Employment Tribunal Claimants must first notify ACAS in a process known as Early Conciliation. The 3 month time limit is paused during Early Conciliation. By timing the notification to ACAS towards the end of the 3 month period, you can extend the period to almost 5 months. To do so, a potential Claimant should opt for conciliation and ask the ACAS officer to only issue the Early Conciliation Certificate at the end of the month’s conciliation period. Most are happy to do so. The limitation period is then extended to the corresponding date in the month following the Certificate.
If facing a limitation date at a particularly stressful time, you could issue a claim with limited information but offering to provide detail later. Provided a claim contains the key “causes of action” (i.e. the things you say are unlawful), it should be accepted. It is advisable to explain why little detail is provided, e.g. that the Claimant has recently given birth or is experiencing pregnancy complications. Once the claim is with the Employment Tribunal, it is possible to ask for a “stay” of proceedings around a due date or when a Claimant is unwell. I have found that Tribunal Judges are quite happy to delay hearing dates or deadlines for exchange of evidence in these circumstances.
Louise Taft has represented many women with complaints of discrimination arising out of pregnancy and maternity. She not only deals with the legal background to claims but can help manage the practical aspects of seeking resolution. Contact her for a chat about how she can help.
020 7935 3522
Whatever your personal circumstances the above is only a guide and we would advise you to contact us to obtain definitive advice as you will appreciate that each person’s circumstances are unique to them.