Six year contract claim time limit does not apply in Tribunals

In Grisanti v NBC News Worldwide Inc an employment tribunal has held that the six-year time limit that applies to contract claims in the civil courts does not also apply to contract claims brought in the employment tribunal under the Employment Tribunals Extension of Jurisdiction (England and Wales) Order 1994 SI 1994/1623. There is no appellate authority on this point and the tribunal disagreed with an earlier tribunal decision that suggested that the six-year limit did apply. When G sought to claim her pension following the termination of her employment with NBC Inc she was informed by HMRC that no national insurance payments had been made on her behalf between 1996 and 2003. Although it was unclear how the failure had come about, G lodged claims against NBC Inc on a number of grounds, one of which was breach of contract. She lodged her claim on 24 March 2015, which was within the three-month time limit from the termination of her employment, as extended by the Acas conciliation period, for a contract claim in the tribunal. Although the claim was in time under the 1994 Order, NBC Inc argued that, as a contract claim, it was also subject to the general time limit set down by S.5 of the Limitation Act 1980, which is six years ‘from the date on which the cause of action accrued’. This time limit would have expired in 2009 and so, if it applied, G’s claim would be out of time. NBC Inc argued that Article 3 of the 1994 Order, which bestows jurisdiction in contract claims on the tribunal, should be read as incorporating the Act. It pointed out that Article 3 only applies to claims ‘which a court in England and Wales would… have jurisdiction to hear and determine’, and relied on an earlier employment tribunal decision supporting this interpretation, Taylor v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust ET Case No.2405066/12. The tribunal in the present case rejected NBC Inc’s argument and declined to follow Taylor. It did not consider that the wording of Article 3 prevented the claim, since the time limit is a procedural question in a civil court and a court does have jurisdiction to hear an out of time claim. The tribunal thought that it would be odd if the 1980 Act were to trump Article 7 of the 1994 Order. Furthermore, since Article 3(c) prevents an employee pursuing a contract claim in the tribunal until the employment has terminated, the Act, if it applied, would prevent an employee ever bringing a claim that was more than six years old, which would be an odd outcome given that the Order was intended to extend jurisdiction. The tribunal therefore concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear the contract claim under the 1994 Order.

Link to transcript: https://ids.thomsonreuters.com/download/file/fid/5527

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