It is only too easy for Employment Tribunal (ET) claims to founder at an early stage due to a lack of legal expertise. That very nearly happened in the case of a worker who got his employer’s name wrong when lodging an unfair dismissal complaint.
When filing his claim via an online portal, the worker misidentified his former employer, a food wholesaler. As a result, his claim was initially rejected. It was later accepted after he amended his claim, giving the employer’s correct name.
By that time, however, the three-month time limit that applies to unfair dismissal claims under Section 111 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) had expired. The worker accepted that he had filed his claim six days late and, on that basis, the employer argued that the ET had no power to hear his complaint.
Ruling on the matter, the ET noted that it is surprisingly common for employees to be unaware of the correct name of their employers. Confusion can easily arise where an employer uses a variety of brand names for marketing purposes or is part of a group structure. The differences between trading names and legal entities can be complex and many employees understandably do not comprehend them.
The employer’s correct name appeared on the P45 that the man was given on the termination of his employment. However, he testified that the name he had mistakenly given in his initial claim was frequently used to informally refer to the employer. The ET was satisfied that he genuinely believed he had submitted the claim correctly.
His initial claim was lodged within the time limit and the amended version, although late, was filed reasonably promptly once he realised his mistake. The ET found that it would not in those circumstances have been reasonably practicable for him to have presented his claim earlier than he did. Given that finding, the ET ruled that the exception to the usual time limit contained in Section 111(2)(b) of the ERA applied and that it had jurisdiction to consider the man’s claim.