The consequences of relying on unqualified representation

14 May 2015

Lesley Attu, Head of Product DevelopmentHere's an example of why it's so important for customers to have Family Legal Protection.

In Sterling v United Learning Trust the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) agreed that an employment tribunal had been right to reject a claim that did not have the correct early conciliation number recorded on it. This case should serve as a reminder of the consequences that can follow when individuals do not have access to qualified lawyers.

The employee was represented by an unqualified person. Four days before the deadline for making the claim the tribunal inferred that her employment tribunal claim form (ET1 form) was missing some digits from the EC number. The form was returned to her by the tribunal office two days later, with an accompanying letter. The address cited by the office was neither that of her representative nor her home. It ultimately arrived at a neighbour's house and the employee re-submitted straight away, albeit out of time.

The employee appealed against the rejection however the EAT determined that Employment Tribunal rules oblige the employment tribunal to reject a claim if the EC number is missing, although a party may apply for a reconsideration of such a rejection. In this case the employee's representative did not apply for reconsideration, and even though he was not legally qualified the EAT said the employment tribunal was entitled to conclude that no such application was forthcoming.

The representative also failed to argue that it was not reasonably practicable for the employee to have lodged the claim in time. The EAT dismissed the employee's challenge to this aspect of the judgement, making it clear that the burden was on her to prove that it was not reasonably practicable and that even if the point had not been argued originally there was a duty on the employee to ensure that the EC number was cited correctly.

Lesley Attu, Head of Product Development

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