27 April 2020


ET / EAT Procedure


Time Limits

Campaign to extend ET time limits during COVID-19

More than 20 organisations have today written to the Government to call for the temporary extension of time limits for harassment and discrimination claims to the Employment Tribunal from 3 to 6 months in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The signatories include campaigning organisations, charities and those providing support to victims of harassment and discrimination.

The current time limit for harassment and discrimination is one of the shortest for any kind of civil claim. The coronavirus pandemic has made this time limit increasingly difficult for prospective claimants to meet.

As set out in a letter to the Lord Chancellor The Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP:

“Many law firms and not-for-profit advice agencies are furloughing staff, reducing services and limiting the number of new claims they take on. As the time limit for harassment and discrimination cases runs from what the Tribunal concludes is the last unlawful act, this puts individuals without the benefit of specialist legal advice at a particular disadvantage, as they may not be able to identify when their time will run out.

“Further problems arise from the fact that these kinds of claims are more likely to prompt internal grievance investigations than other types of claim and those resulting processes are being delayed significantly by the ongoing lockdown. Nonetheless, limitation periods run on, meaning people are currently forced to start the ACAS process and issue proceedings before internal investigations are completed.

“Finally, the personal and often damaging nature of discrimination and harassment claims often adversely impacts the mental wellbeing of claimants. There can be no doubt that the current COVID-19 situation exacerbates this particular harm.”

The joint letter calls for the introduction of legislation which will temporarily extend the timeline for those claims for which the deadline falls within the period of the pandemic.

Suzanne McKie QC, Founder and Managing Director of Farore Law, said:

“This is such an important issue for so many people. I’ve heard from so many agencies and charities that COVID-19 is causing significant barriers for claimants who might wish to bring claims, but who are hampered by mental illness and by lack of access to advice. As someone who specialises in discrimination and harassment cases I am seeing this at first hand. This is a small ask that could make such a big difference to victims of harassment and discrimination.

Julie Bishop, Director of the Law Centres Network, said:

Government must protect people’s work along with their rights at work. Workers observing social distancing must be confident that, while they play by the rules, they do not lose out to rogue employers who break the rules. The government must reassure all workers who face harassment or discrimination at work that they can still seek justice, even if it may take a little longer.

Chilli Reid, Executive Director of Advice UK, said:

AdviceUK members are seeing a significant increase in employment enquiries as a direct result of COVID-19. This increased demand comes at a time when advisers are facing real challenges to deliver a service remotely. In order to protect vulnerable employees, it is essential that the time limits in discrimination and harassment cases are extended as a matter of urgency.

The full letter, as sent to the Lord Chancellor, is available to download here.

The letter is signed by representatives from the following organisations:

Liberty, JUSTICE, Law Centres Network, Advice UK, Runnymede Trust, Disability Law Service, Equally Ours, Farore Law, Centre for Women’s Justice, Rights of Women, Maternity Action, Pregnant then Screwed, Working Families, Eastern European Resource Centre, Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), One Loud Voice, Improper, Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Citizens Advice Redbridge, Derbyshire Law Centre, Kirklees Law Centre, North Kensington Law Centre, Plumstead Community Law Centre

Written by:

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