Establishing time limits for pregnancy discrimination claims

Case name: Thompson v Ark Schools

A woman believed the company she worked for had unlawfully discriminated against her when she was pregnant. However, she did not find out that she could make a legal claim until after the three-month time limit. The Employment Tribunal did not agree to hear her case as she had not made a claim within three months, but the Employment Appeal Tribunal later ruled that the original decision should be retaken by a different Employment Tribunal.

Legal issue

Did the Employment Tribunal make a safe decision about whether to extend the time limit for lodging a discrimination claim?

Background

A woman was offered a management job working for a company. When she found out she was pregnant, she asked for the start date to be delayed.

The company then withdrew the job offer. The woman had a difficult pregnancy and also suffered with anxiety and depression.

She only learned that she could make a claim for unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination after the three-month time limit for claiming had passed.

The woman followed legal advice and made a claim, asking the Employment Tribunal to use its discretion about the time limit.

However, the Employment Tribunal judge decided that the time limit should not be extended so her case was not heard. The woman then appealed against this decision.

Why we were involved

It is vital to recognise that women in this position may be experiencing physical and emotional difficulties that make it hard to comply with the three-month limit.

Our legal powers allow us to bring our own cases and to support other cases that could strengthen equality and human rights laws. In this case, we provided legal help by helping to fund the woman’s case.

What we did

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in August 2018 ruled in the woman’s favour.

What happened

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in July 2018 ruled in the woman’s favour.

The judge stated that the Employment Tribunal’s decision was based on a misunderstanding of the timings of the case, including when she had begun to seek legal advice.

Her claim was sent to be considered at another Employment Tribunal.

Who will benefit and how

The judgment of the EAT highlights that tribunals should take great care in considering all the facts when they deal with applications to extend the normal time limits. The case will help to raise public awareness of the issue of time limits for discrimination claims for new and expectant mothers.

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