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Unfair Dismissal Time Limits in the Employment Tribunal

Posted On: [06/09/2021]

Employment Tribunal Time Limit Extensions

There are two kinds of time limit for every Tribunal case.

a. The Primary Time Limit

b. ACAS Early Conciliation (EC) Extended Time Limit.

You have a primary time limit and an extension for EC. For unfair dismissal the time limit for bringing your claim to the Employment Tribunal is 3 months less one day. During the 3 months period you must apply for EC if you intend to start Employment Tribunal proceedings. The 3 month time limit is extended to take account of the EC period by freezing your primary time limit during the conciliation period. The time limit is frozen from when ACAS receives your application for EC to when you receive the EC certificate.

Where you have already been dismissed, the time limit is extended by adding the number of days between the day you apply for EC and the day you receive your EC Certificate to your primary limitation period. If you have not been dismissed, then there is no primary limitation period to extend.


In the case of Pearce v Merrill Lynch, Mr Pearce tried to extend his time limit, after the Primary Time Limit had expired. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) said that he should have applied for EC during his primary limitation period.
Mr Pearce brought his whistleblowing claims after his 3-month time limit. He had been off work due to ill-health for over 4 months and took legal advice too late. His solicitors took 16 days before starting early conciliation with ACAS, which ended on 8th January. His claim was presented to the Employment Tribunal (ET) on 7th February. The ET said that because he had been sick, it had not been reasonably practicable for him to put his claim in on time, but he still did not present it within a reasonable time after his primary time limit had expired, so they threw his claim out as out of time.

Mr Pearce appealed to the EAT who also turned him down because he had not explained his delay in going to ACAS and why he had waited a month after the end of the EC period to file his claim in the ET. The ET implied that the delay was because his solicitors had mistakenly thought that they had a month’s grace because of the EC extended limitation, but that only applies if you are going through EC during the primary limitation period.