Imperial Tobacco Limited v Wright

Time limit extended
Imperial Tobacco Limited v Wright, Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), July 2005

Wright had a poor attendance record over a long period owing to his alleged heroin addiction. On 4 March 2004, following a disciplinary hearing, he was dismissed. His internal appeal against the dismissal, heard on 11 May, was unsuccessful.

The date by which he could present an originating application asserting unfair dismissal under section 111(1) and (2) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 ended on 3 June. Wright’s health deteriorated and he spent some time at a centre for substance abusers and the homeless. He then presented his claim form at the tribunal, but not until 2 August.

For the period from 11 May to July 2004, the tribunal was satisfied that Wright could not realistically have formed the intention to present an originating application, being in no fit state to do so. Accordingly it had not been ‘reasonably practicable’ for him to present his claim within the prescribed period.

The tribunal further decided that the earliest moment it did become ‘reasonably practicable’ to present the claim was in mid July, and that the additional period of time before the actual claim was made was a ‘reasonable’ one.

The EAT upheld this decision and allowed Wright to proceed to the employment tribunal. The question of whether or not it was ‘reasonably practicable’ was one of fact for the tribunal, taking account of the surrounding circumstances.

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