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Check it once, check it twice, why not a third time!

When making an employment claim it is very important that you as the claimant, check and then double check that you have identified the correct opponent (respondent). In most employment claims there is a mandatory initial stage that has to be carried out known as Early Conciliation (EC). In a recent case, Giny v SNA Transport Ltd, the claimant mistakenly named the respondent’s company’s sole director as the respondent when carrying out EC. The claimant later correctly recognised and named the limited company as the respondent when completing his formal claim form. By this time, he was too late to start the process against the correct respondent from scratch. The Employment Tribunal decided that this amounted to more than a “minor error” in accordance with the Employment Tribunal Rules; which in turn resulted in the rejection of the claimant’s claim.
The claimant’s solicitors appealed this decision and argued that the language used, in particular, “minor error”, should be looked at broadly and argued that it was quite clear who the claimant had intended their claim to be against. In this case the claimant had provided the correct address of the limited company but had named the respondent as Mr Ahmed, who was the sole director of the company. The solicitors for the claimant also argued that technical arguments should be avoided, particularly in light of the fact that many claimants are unrepresented and there is a real possibility for ignorance and misunderstanding by an employee as to the correct legal name of his/her employer.
These arguments were met with resistance from the respondent. It argued that there is a fundamental legal distinction between a natural person and a legal entity.
Whilst the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) had a lot of sympathy for the claimant, it was not persuaded that there was any error of law in the Employment Judge’s decision to reject the claim.
The above case comes as a significant warning to claimants and their legal representatives to be extremely vigilant when providing the name for the prospective respondent. Time limits in employment claims are extremely tight, and if it comes to light that an error has been made it would be sensible to start a fresh EC process within the relevant time limit, if possible.
Expert advice helps our commercial clients to get it right from the beginning, which avoids costly mistakes later. If you have any questions or require assistance with any of your employment needs please do not hesitate to contact Jennie Jahina, Head of Employment Law on 0800 088 6004.