LAW REPORT; Tribunal Could Not Hear Employee's Breach of Contract Claim ; 15 June 2000 Capek V Lincolnshire County Council Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Pill, Lord Justice Mummery and Lord Justice Laws) 26 May 2000
Kate O'Hanlon, The Independent (London, England)
AN EMPLOYMENT tribunal does not have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint of breach of contract presented to the tribunal by an employee before the effective date of termination of the contract giving rise to the complaint.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal of Lincolnshire County Council against a decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal that the employment tribunal had jurisdiction to entertain the applicant's claims against it of breach of his contract of employment.
The applicant was suspended from his post as an emergency duty social worker with the council in April 1994. He was dismissed following disciplinary proceedings, the effective date of termination of his employment being July 1995. In the meantime, in November 1994, he had presented three complaints of, inter alia, unfair dismissal and breach of his contract of employment to separate employment tribunals.
The council, whilst accepting that an employment tribunal had exclusive jurisdiction to determine the unfair dismissal complaint, contended that it had no right to determine the breach of contract complaint as it had not been presented `within the period of three months beginning with the effective date of termination of the contract giving rise to the claim' within Article 7(a) of the Industrial Tribunals (Extension of Jurisdiction) Order 1994 (SI 1994/ 1623), and that such a claim should have been pursued in the county court.
All of the applicant's claims to the employment tribunals failed, one of the tribunals deciding that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim for breach of contract. The applicant appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which dismissed all his appeals arising from the decisions of the three tribunals, save on the issue of jurisdiction. The council appealed against that decision, and the applicant cross appealed.
The appellant appeared in person; Nicholas Dean (Peter Burns) for the council.
Lord Justice Mummery said that the employment tribunal had not made an error of law in its decision on jurisdiction under the 1994 Order. Subject to the provisions of the Limitation Act, the applicant could only proceed in the county court in respect of the breach of contract claim. That was not a satisfactory state of affairs. There was not the shred of a suggestion that the council had been or could have been prejudiced by the premature presentation of a complaint in a case such as the present. …