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28 April, 2020 Open access

Access to justice and advice sector organisations callĀ for temporary extension of time limit for making harassment or discrimination employment tribunal claims

Joint letter to Lord Chancellor seeks extension of time limit from three to six months to protect access to justice during the coronavirus outbreak

The Law Centres Network and more than 20 other access to justice and advice sector organisation have called for a temporary extension of the time limit for making a claim to the employment tribunal during the coronavirus outbreak for people affected by harassment or discrimination.

In a joint letter to the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland, the Law Centres Network, along with organisations including Liberty, Maternity Action, Working Families, and Advice UK, ask the Lord Chancellor to -

‘… protect access to justice for workers who have been subjected to harassment and discrimination by temporarily extending the time limit for those claims to the Employment Tribunal from three to six month.'

The letter goes on to advise that -

'The three-month time limit for bringing a discrimination or harassment claim is one of the shortest limitation periods for any kind of civil case. The argument for such a limit - that it encourages the prompt resolution of workplace disputes - cannot be maintained in current conditions. Even before this crisis, the Tribunal’s backlog meant an average of 8.5 months before conclusion and now, with all trials until at least 26 June 2020 converted to case management hearings, this will only lengthen.’

In addition, the letter warns that many law firms and not-for-profit advice agencies are furloughing staff and reducing services as a result of the COVID-19 crisis - putting individuals without the benefit of specialist legal advice at a particular disadvantage - and says that -

‘Proper mitigation of these concerns requires the introduction of a temporary extension to the relevant time limits. As was acknowledged by the Presidents of the Employment Tribunal in guidance provided on 3 April 2020, this change must be made by Parliament. We call on you to ensure that the Government introduces the relevant legislation to safeguard access to justice for these vulnerable workers during the lockdown period.’

For more information, see Law Centres Network calls for extended time limits in employment tribunal claims from lawcentres.org.uk