Enabling people with mental health conditions to seek justice

Case name: J v K & Anor

A man with mental health conditions attempted to appeal the outcome of an unsuccessful Employment Tribunal case. He missed the deadline by one hour and his appeal was refused by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). He took his case to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the EAT had discriminated against him.

Legal issue

Was the EAT’s strict application of the deadline for submitting an appeal discriminatory?

Background

A man who is HIV positive and has mental health conditions including stress, anxiety and depression unsuccessfully took his former employers to an Employment Tribunal. He was ordered to pay substantial costs.

He attempted to lodge an appeal but filed the paperwork one hour after the deadline.

He then applied for an extension to the deadline, which was refused. He then took his case to the Court of Appeal.  

Why we were involved

Around one in four people will experience a mental health condition each year. They should have the same opportunity to seek redress through the justice system as anyone else, and our goal is to ensure that happens.

We were concerned that the EAT’s failure to make adjustments for the man’s disability had prevented him seeking justice, was discriminatory.

We hoped that a successful challenge to the EAT’s decision would make it easier for those in similar circumstances to seek justice in the future.

What we did

We intervened in this case, which is when we provide the court with specialist evidence or advice. We highlighted the importance of taking account of mental health conditions when considering applications for extending appeal time limits.

What happened

The case was successful on the basis that the limited capacity of the EAT's email system was the reason for the claimant’s application being late. This meant that the court did not need to decide on the relevance of the man’s mental ill-health. However, the Judge did give guidance that if mental ill-health causes a failure to meet a deadline, an extension should usually be given.

Who will benefit and how

The courts must ensure that they make reasonable adjustments to level the playing field for those with disabilities, and this ruling clarifies that. We hope that in the future it will make it easier for people with mental health conditions to seek justice.

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