Commentary - Time limits are rarely changeable

In Jurkowska v HLMAD (2008), HLMAD appealed against the employment tribunal decision that it had jur...

In Jurkowska v HLMAD (2008), HLMAD appealed against the employment tribunal decision that it had jurisdiction to entertain Ms Jurkowska's claim. At the original hearing the judgment was given to counsel. The reasons, which included a note of the judgment at the end, were sent to HLMAD by post.

The employment appeal tribunal rules require that a copy of the judgment is enclosed with any notice of appeal. HLMAD sent a notice of appeal on the last date for appealing and enclosed the reasons with their notice, but not the judgment. It was unaware that the judgment had been given to counsel at the hearing and had not received a copy in the post from the ET, therefore, believing the only written record of the judgment was contained in the reasons.

The EAT notified HLMAD of the omission at 3.37pm; HLMAD rectified the situation and the judgment was served 33 minutes after the 4pm deadline.

The EAT allowed an extension of time, which Ms Jurkowska appealed. In dismissing her request, the Court of Appeal held that the EAT was entitled to sustain this represented exceptional circumstances that needed a lawful discretionary extension of time.

This decision contrasts with Miller v Community Links Trust (2007) where a claim was held to be out of time when it was received by the ET by email eight seconds past the midnight deadline, highlighting that time limits will only be relaxed in rare and exceptional cases where the tribunal is satisfied that there is a reason that justifies the departure from the rules. Practitioners should, therefore, take time limits seriously. Jurkowska is an exceptional case and caused by unusual circumstances surrounding the communication of the procedural documents.

These law reports are contributed by national law firm Berrymans Lace Mawer (www.blm-law.com).

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