Mr Sealy was dismissed on 9th July 2000. He posted his IT1, claiming unfair dismissal, on Friday, 6th October 2000. The three months for presenting his claim expired on Sunday, 8th October 2000. Due to postal delays, the IT1 did not arrive at the tribunal until Tuesday 10th October.
The Employment Tribunal's Decision
The employment tribunal presented inconsistent summary and extended reasons. Accordingly the Court of Appeal remitted the case to a fresh tribunal for re-consideration. In doing so, the Court of Appeal set out guidelines relating to presentation of claims by post.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal
The EAT refused permission to appeal, so off everyone went to the C of A.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal held that the crucial question is whether a tribunal could conclude that the employee had posted a letter which, in the ordinary course of the post, could reasonably be expected to arrive by the end of the three month period. If it could reasonably be expected to arrive by the end of the three month period, but due to postal delays does not do so, then it would not be practicable to present within three months and an extension of time should be granted.
The Court of Appeal also held that the ordinary course of events should be decided by reference to the Civil Procedure Rules, i.e. 2 days for 1st class post (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays - see CPR 6.7 and CPR 2.8).
Implications of Decision
It would now appear to be safe for a solicitor to rely on the post for lodging an IT1, provided it is posted first-class two clear days before the end of the limitation period. Note that evidence of posting is always prudent. Although not expressly overruled, this case would appear to dispense with previous guidance that it is incumbent on a solicitor, when posting the IT1 close to the 3-month expiry, to telephone the tribunal to check the IT1 has arrived.
Readers will realise the irony in the Post Office trying to take advantage of its own delay in delivering the IT1 in order to avoid liability!
The decision is available at http://www.courtservice.gov.uk/judgmentsfiles/j1228/Consignia_v_Sealy.htm . Paragraph 31 of the decision contains summary guidance on the correct course to follow.