Strict Time Limits in Employment Law Cases

A cautionary tale in time limits in employment law cases

(WRC = Workplace Relations Commission) 

In an interesting case heard before the WRC, an employee had one complaint regarding wrongful deduction in pay.  

The time limit to start your case in most employment law actions is a short 6 months timeframe.  

In the case the period of time the matter was out of date regarding the 6 month time limit was 13 days only.  

Time Limit to Submit a Claim to the WRC:  

The law: 

Section 41(6) of the Workplace Relations Act,2015 states 

“Subject to subsection (8) an adjudication officer shall not entertain a complaint referred to him or her under this section if it has been presented to the Director General after the expiration of the period of 6 months beginning on the date of the contravention to which the complaint refers”.  

Time Limit Extension

The employee applied under the following provision for an time extension:

An adjudication officer may entertain a complaint or dispute to which this section applies presented or referred to the Director General after the expiration of the period referred to in subsection (6) or (7) (but not later than 6 months after such expiration), as the case may be, if he or she is satisfied that the failure to present the complaint or refer the dispute within that period was due to reasonable cause. 

So, the test is Reasonable Cause.

But what then is Reasonable Cause?  

The test for determining reasonable cause was set out in Cementation Skanska and Carroll in the following terms: – 

It is the Court’s view that in considering if reasonable cause exists, it is for the claimant to show that there are reasons which both explain the delay and afford an excuse for the delay.  

The explanation must be reasonable, that is to say it must make sense, be agreeable to reason and not be irrational or absurd. In the context in which the expression reasonable cause appears in the statute it suggests an objective standard, but it must be applied to the facts and circumstances known to the claimant at the material time.  

The claimant’s failure to present the claim within the six-month time limit must have been due to the reasonable cause relied upon.  Hence there must be a causal link between the circumstances cited and the delay and the claimant should satisfy the Court, as a matter of probability, that had those circumstances not been present he would have initiated the claim in time. 

The length of the delay should be taken into account. A short delay may require only a slight explanation whereas a long delay may require more cogent reasons.  

Where reasonable cause is shown the Court must still consider if it is appropriate in the circumstances to exercise its discretion in favour of granting an extension of time. Here the Court should consider if the respondent has suffered prejudice by the delay and should also consider if the claimant has a good arguable case.” 

Satisfying reasonable cause and convincing an Adjudication officer to accept the excuse for the delay is not an easy task.

What can we take from this?  

A couple of things:  

  1. If there is any concern over the time limit just lodge the claim to stop the clock, and one can then withdraw the complaint if this is necessary. This is the better way to go, as you have safeguarded your options.
  2. That Adjudicators will not extend time in employment cases lightly. The threshold can be high.  

Many people are hesitant and want time to consider their options before taking legal action.

Most people when they have a case, it will all be new to them, and they don’t know what to expect ie if they will have a positive experience or not. This is understandable.

If there is a concern over the time limit for lodging a claim to the WRC, and a person is still on the fence, the best course of action is just lodge the complaint to stop the clock and withdraw it if necessary thereafter.

Disclaimer 

Please be advised that the above-mentioned material is intended as an overview and as a broad out-line of the topic discussed. It should not be considered as complete and comprehensive legal advice, nor act as an appropriate substitute. Legal advice should be sought from a solicitor prior to relying on anything in this article.  

Due care has been taken in the publication of this article and we do not accept legal liability as a result of reliance on any material covered in the above article.