A former Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) solicitor was unwell with stress but not so ill that she could not bring an unfair dismissal claim in time, an employment tribunal has ruled.
The claimant, named as Miss S Dillon, had been off ill with stress from 28 January 2019, and resigned with effect from 30 August 2019.
The 64-year-old, who began working at the CPS in 1982, was a specialist prosecutor at the time, and first raised a grievance in April 2019, instructing solicitors to draft it for her.
She was dissatisfied with the outcome of the grievance, which she received in November, but did not contemplate bringing the claim for constructive unfair dismissal until she finally had sight of the grievance investigator’s report in January 2020.
The time limit for presenting the claim expired on midnight on 29 November 2019, but Ms Dillon argued that it was not reasonably practicable to do so in time, and that it was presented within a further reasonable period not just because of the claimant’s health at the relevant time but also her “reasonable ignorance” of time limits and the fact that she was awaiting the outcome and supporting documentation from her grievances.
Employment Judge Woffenden concluded that, although Ms Dillon was “undoubtedly unwell and had been unwell for a long time”, her ill health was not such that it was “not reasonably practicable” for her to present her claim within time.
There was no evidence that her ill health worsened significantly once she was off work, the judge said, and noted during that time she was able to instruct lawyers to draft the grievance, make travel arrangements to visit her son in Spain (her counsellor had advised that she get out more and distract herself), participate in the grievance hearing and then pursue disclosure of the investigator’s report.
“The evidence before me indicates that, despite the longstanding symptoms of her condition which prevented her from being able to work she was nonetheless able to manage her affairs when circumstances required.”
While the judge accepted that Ms Dillon did wrongly assumed the time limit for other jurisdictions applied to employment tribunals, she was a solicitor and had close family members who were able to recommend lawyers to her.
“Against that background, why did she make no enquiries whatsoever either personally or of others immediately after her employment ended or indeed until after 18 January 2020 following the receipt of [the investigator’s] report?
“It was because it was only then that she turned her mind to taking proceedings against the respondent and sought advice.”
But she had received the grievance outcome on 20 November 2019, Judge Woffenden noted.
“The grievance and the way the respondent dealt with them had no relevance to a claim of constructive unfair dismissal which would concern what did or did not happen prior to 4 August 2019 [when Ms Dillon resigned]…
“I am not satisfied that it was not reasonably practicable for the claim of unfair dismissal to have been presented in time because of her health ignorance of time limits or the fact that she was awaiting the outcome and supporting documentation from her grievances whether considered individually or collectively.
“She left it over five months after her resignation to make any enquiries about her legal position, too late to present her claim in time.”