In this round up of recent cases, we look at EAT decisions on extending the time limit for claims when negotiations are ongoing, relevant factors that a tribunal must take into account in determining whether to make an order for reinstatement or re-engagement and a tribunal's decision that an employer was bound to continue making payments made in error.
Compromise agreement discussions can extend tribunal time limits
In the recent case of Eagles v Rugged Systems Ltd, the EAT held that the automatic three month extension to the time limit under Regulation 15 of the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004, which provides for an automatic three month extension of time for lodging certain complaints can be triggered by negotiations aimed at compromising an unfair dismissal claim and avoiding employment tribunal proceedings.
After receiving notice of redundancy, Mrs Eagles entered in to discussions with her former employer about a compromise agreement in respect of her alleged claim for unfair dismissal. No agreement was reached so Mrs Eagles lodged a claim at the employment tribunal, 22 days late. The EAT held that the time limit could be extended under Regulation 15 and remitted the case to the tribunal to consider whether, on the facts, Mrs Eagles was, at the expiry of the basic time limit, acting in the reasonable belief that a procedure was ongoing for resolving all the outstanding issues on her dismissal.
Reinstatement – relevant factors
Employment tribunals have a wide discretion when considering whether to make an order for reinstatement, but they are required by Section 116 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to take into account the following:
- whether the complainant wishes to be reinstated;
- whether it is practicable for the employer to comply with an order for reinstatement; and
- where the complainant caused or contributed to his dismissal whether it would be just to order his reinstatement.
In the recent case of Central & NW London NHS Trust v Abimbola, an employment tribunal made an order for reinstatement and the respondent employer appealed to the EAT. The EAT agreed with the employer that tribunal had failed to take into account relevant factors when considering whether to make a reinstatement order. These relevant factors included the tribunal's finding that the Claimant was evasive and had been dishonest about his loss of earnings when giving evidence at the remedies hearing and the existence of earlier allegations of misconduct (which were unproven) prior to the Claimant's dismissal and allowed the appeal.
Mistake results in part-timer receiving full-time salary
Barclays Bank discovered one day that one of its part-time employees, Mrs Keenan, had been receiving salary at the full-time rate for a number of years. She was being paid £17,000 instead of £9,500. Mrs Keenan had believed that she was receiving the correct salary because she had been promised a pay rise when Barclays took over her previous employer, Woolwich Building Society. Barclays demanded that Mrs Keenan return the overpaid amounts and Mrs Keenan, in turn, brought an employment tribunal claim. The employment tribunal held that Barclays was obliged to continue paying Mrs Keenan at the full-time rate. Mrs Keenan had no actual knowledge of the mistake and could not have been expected to know about it. She genuinely thought she was entitled to the higher salary (Keenan v Barclays Bank Plc).