How long will a potential claimant have to lodge an employment tribunal claim if early conciliation is not successful?

A claimant usually has only three months within which to lodge an employment tribunal claim (although for some claims the time limit is six months).

This time limit can be extended as a result of the early conciliation process. There are two ways in which the time limits can be extended by early conciliation:

  • the period starting the day after the employee first contacted Acas and ending with receipt of the early conciliation certificate will not count when calculating the time within which a claim has to be submitted; and
  • where the time limit would have expired during the time between the employee first contacting Acas and one month after receipt of the early conciliation certificate, the time limit will be extended to expire one month after receipt of the early conciliation certificate.

In Luton Borough Council v Haque EAT/0180/17, the Employment Appeal Tribunal confirmed that the extension referred to in the second point above applies after that referred to in the first point has been applied (not as an alternative). The time limit is first extended to discount the early conciliation period. If this extended deadline would expire before one month after receipt of the certificate, it is extended again to expire one month after receipt of the certificate.

Tribunals have always been able to extend the time limits in exceptional cases. The rules on how this can be done vary depending on the type of claim. The early conciliation rules do not affect a tribunal's general power to extend time limits in those exceptional cases.