Tribunal Procedure.

Wrong Early Conciliation number stated on a Form ET1 is potentially fatal.

The ET was concerned with two claims lodged by the Claimant. The first gave an incorrect ACAS early conciliation (“EC”) number – relating to a different Claimant and a different claim; the second gave the number of an EC certificate that was invalid. Neither had been rejected by the ET under Rule 10 ET Rules nor had the claims been referred to an Employment Judge under Rule 12. At a Preliminary Hearing before the ET, the Claimant applied to amend his claim to correct the ACAS EC number. The ET allowed the application, seeing this as consistent with the overriding objective and the general principle of access to justice given that this was a minor amendment to rectify a technical error. The Respondent appealed.

Held: allowing the appeal

The Claimant’s claims failed to include an accurate ACAS EC number and were thus of a kind described at Rule 12(1)(c) ET Rules. Pursuant to Rule 12(2), the Employment Judge was therefore required to reject the claims and return the claims to the Claimant; that was a mandatory requirement that was not limited to a particular stage of the proceedings. As this would mean that there was no longer a claim before the ET, the Employment Judge had no power to allow the Claimant to amend; the correct procedure was instead that laid down by Rule 13. The Claimant argued that the ET’s decision could be upheld by virtue of Rule 6, read together with the overriding objective. Rule 6 could not, however, import a discretion into a mandatory Rule Cranwell v Cullen UKEATPAS/0046/14, [2015] UKEAT 0046_14_2003 and Baisley v South Lanarkshire Council [2017] ICR 365 applied. Moreover, Rule 6 applied to ET proceedings but the mandatory rejection and return of the claim under Rule 12(2) meant that there were no proceedings before the ET.

It is potential misconduct for an employee to covertly record a meeting unless the most pressing of circumstances.

There was a time when an employee – or for that matter an employer – had to go to a great deal of trouble to record a meeting covertly. At that time it would be straightforward to draw the conclusion that the recording had been undertaken to entrap or otherwise gain an unfair advantage. But in our judgment times have changed. Most people carry with them a mobile telephone which is capable of making a recording; and it is the work of a moment to switch it on. In our collective experience it is now not uncommon to find that an employee has recorded a meeting without saying so. In our experience such a recording is not necessarily undertaken to entrap or gain a dishonest advantage. It may have been done to keep a record; or protect the employee from any risk of being misrepresented when faced with an accusation or an investigation; or to enable the employee to obtain advice from a union or elsewhere. 78.We do not think that an ET is bound to conclude that the covert recording of a meeting necessarily undermines the trust and confidence between employer and employee to the extent that an employer should no longer be required to keep the employee. An ET is entitled to make an assessment of the circumstances. The purpose of the recording will be relevant: and in our experience the purpose may vary widely from the highly manipulative employee seeking to entrap the employer to the confused and vulnerable employee seeking to keep a record or guard against misrepresentation. There may, as Mr Milsom recognised, be rare cases where pressing circumstances completely justified the recording. The extent of the employee’s blameworthiness may also be relevant; it may vary from an employee who has specifically been told that a recording must not be kept, or has lied about making a recording, to the inexperienced or distressed employee who has scarcely thought about the blameworthiness of making such a recording. What is recorded may also be relevant: it may vary between a meeting concerned with the employee of which a record would normally be kept and shared in any event, and a meeting where highly confidential business or personal information relating to the employer or another employee is discussed (in which case the recording may involve a serious breach of the rights of one or more others). Any evidence of the attitude of the employer to such conduct may also be relevant. It is in our experience still relatively rare for covert recording to appear on a list of instances of gross misconduct in a disciplinary procedure; but this may soon change. 79.That said, we consider that it is good employment practice for an employee or an employer to say if there is any intention to record a meeting save in the most pressing of circumstances; and it will generally amount to misconduct not to do so. We think this is generally recognised throughout employment except perhaps by some inexperienced employees. This practice allows both sides to consider whether it is desirable to record a meeting and if so how. It is not always desirable to record a meeting: sometimes it will inhibit a frank exchange of views between experienced representatives and members of management. It may be better to agree the outcome at the end. Sometimes if a meeting is long a summary or note will be of far more value than a recording which may have to be transcribed.

Discrimination – Remedy

A Tribunal is not bound to award injury to feelings in the lower vento band just because it is a one off act of discrimination.

The EAT said “Moving on to the ET’s assessment of injury to feelings in this case, it is right to say that, in deciding whether the case should fall within the lower or middle Vento bands, an ET might think it relevant to have regard to whether the discrimination in question formed part of a continuing course of conduct (perhaps a campaign of harassment over a long period)or whether it was only a one-off act. That said, each such assessment must be fact and case specific. It is, after all, not hard to think of cases involving one-off acts of discrimination that might well justify an award falling within the middle or higher Vento brackets, or other cases involving a continuing course of conduct that are properly to be assessed as falling within the lower band. Simply describing discrimination as an isolated or one-off act may not provide the complete picture and I do not read the Vento guidance as placing a straightjacket on the ET such that it must only assess such cases as falling within the lower band. The question for the ET must always be, what was the particular effect on this individual complainant.”