EMPLOYMENT APPEALS TRIBUNAL
CLAIM(S) OF: CASE NO.
EMPLOYEE - claimant UD724/2012
EMPLOYER - respondent
UNFAIR DISMISSALS ACTS, 1977 TO 2007
I certify that the Tribunal
(Division of Tribunal)
Chairman: Ms. K.T O'Mahony B.L.
Members: Mr. P. Casey
Mr D. McEvoy
heard this claim at Cork on 10th October 2013
Claimant(s) : In person
Respondent(s) : Ms. Alice Crowley, Ronan Daly Jermyn, Solicitors, 12 South Mall, Cork
The determination of the Tribunal was as follows:-
At the commencement of the hearing the name and address of the respondent was amended by consent.
The respondent’s representative raised two preliminary issues. The first was that the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim as it had been lodged outside the statutory six-month time limit. The second was that the claimant was excluded from the benefit of the Unfair Dismissals Acts under section 2(i)(j) as he was an officer of a vocational educational committee.
Summary of Evidence
The claimant’s employment ended on 14 May 2011 by way of early retirement on health grounds. His claim under the Unfair Dismissals Acts was lodged with the Tribunal on 13 April 2012, some eleven months following the termination of his employment.
The claimant’s position was that he suffered ill health as a result of severe work related stress. Prior to seeking early retirement on health grounds he was on sick leave for one year and his illness did not end on May 2011, when his employment ended. When he began to feel well he became involved on a voluntary basis in local community projects but he did not feel well enough at that stage to commit to full-time employment. In September 2011 he became involved in setting up websites on a voluntary basis. He had thought of bringing a claim for dismissal at times but felt he could not for health reasons.
The claimant accepted that he had made a complaint to the press ombudsman within about three months of an offending article having been published in a newspaper in February 2011; he had no option but to engage following the publication of the article.
Section 8 the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 provides, inter alia:
(2) A claim for redress under this Act shall be initiated by giving a notice
in writing (containing such particulars (if any) as may be specified
in regulations under section 17 of this Act made for the purposes of
subsection (8) of this section) to a rights commissioner or the Tribunal,
as the case may be –
(a) within the period of 6 months beginning on the date of the
relevant dismissal, or
(b) if the rights commissioner or the Tribunal, as the case may be,
is satisfied that exceptional circumstances prevented the giving
of the notice within the period aforesaid, then, within such period
not exceeding twelve months from the date aforesaid as the rights commissioner or the Tribunal, as the case may be, considers
In applying subsection (b) the Tribunal must ask itself whether exceptional circumstances existed within the six month period immediately following the termination of the claimant’s employment and if they did whether those circumstances prevented the appellant from lodging the claim within the initial six month period.
The term ‘exceptional circumstances’ is not defined in the Act but it was considered bythe Employment Appeals Tribunal In Byrne v PJ Quigley Ltd [1995[ ELR 205 where it was stated that the words ‘exceptional circumstances’ are ‘strong words’ and should be contrasted with the milder words ‘reasonably practical’ … or ‘reasonable cause’. ‘Exceptional means something out of the ordinary. At the very least the circumstances must be unusual, probably quite unusual but not necessarily highly unusual.
Having considered the evidence the Tribunal notes that there was no medical evidence before it as to the claimant’s health in the six months following his dismissal. He suffered from work related stress and was out of work for a year before the termination of his employment. In or
around the time of his dismissal the claimant had initiated other proceedings and during the initial six months following the termination of the claimant’s employment was well enough to become involved in community projects. In the circumstances the Tribunal is not satisfied that exceptional circumstances within the initial six-month period immediately following his dismissal prevented the claimant from initiating his claim under the Unfair Dismissals Acts. Accordingly, the Tribunal may not extend the time for lodging the claim and has no jurisdiction to heat the claim under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007 Acts.
As the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear the claim under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007 it is not necessary for it to consider the second preliminary issue.
Sealed with the Seal of the
Employment Appeals Tribunal