HM Prison Service v Barua, EAT, 15 November 2006
In February 2005, the Prison Service unilaterally reduced Mr Barua’s pay. He protested, without success, and on 25 April 2005, he gave written notice of his resignation, effective from 31 July 2005. On 27 June 2005, during his notice period, he submitted a grievance in writing. Seven months later, Barua brought tribunal claims for unfair constructive dismissal and unlawful deductions from wages.
One of the circumstances in which the normal time limit for bringing a claim is extended by three months is where the statutory grievance procedures (SGPs) apply, and the employee has submitted a written grievance “within the normal time limit” – the period within which a complaint must be presented. An unfair dismissal complaint, for example, must normally be brought “before the end of the period of three months beginning with the effective date of termination”.
The tribunal accepted that Barua’s claims were in time, based on the fact that the grievance lodged on 27 June entitled him to a three-month extension of time. The Prison Service appealed, arguing that, at the date of the grievance, time had not yet started to run in respect of Barua’s claims as his employment had not terminated and the series of alleged deductions from wages had not come to an end. The grievance was therefore not “within the normal time limit” of the claims.
The appeal was dismissed. The requirement for a grievance to be lodged within the normal time limit only meant that it should not be lodged after the expiry of that time limit. It would be unsatisfactory on policy grounds that an employee who submitted a grievance before time started to run should only have three months, rather than six, to bring their claim, since this would penalise staff who acted promptly in raising a grievance.
If the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) had decided that a grievance presented before resignation in a constructive dismissal case did not trigger an extension of time, this would have discouraged employees from raising grievances at an early stage when there was still some hope of resolution – a result that would have been contrary to the whole purpose of the dispute resolution procedures.