There is no question this week but this case serves as a classic example of way an ostrich approach to Tribunal defences is not a good strategy.
Ms Grunwell, the Claimant, bought claims for unpaid holiday and maternity discrimination against Chelmsford Unisex Hair Salon, the Respondent. Her claim alleged she was dismissed by the Respondent as they did not wish to pay her maternity pay.
As it was a discrimination claim, the claim was listed for a preliminary hearing. The Respondent did not file an ET3 and, as per Office Equipment v Hughes, the preliminary hearing was converted to a remedy hearing that each party was invited to attend.
The Respondent did not attend that remedy hearing and the Claimant was awarded over £18,000.00 in holiday pay and injury to feeling. As is often the case with default judgments, the Respondent took its head out the sand once the remedy judgment was sent out.
The Respondent appealed the remedy and requested a stay to allow for a reconsideration hearing on the original default liability judgment. The Respondent argued it had not received the original claim (despite it being sent to the same address as the judgment).
However, no reconsideration application was ever made and no prospective defence presented. The appeal commenced and the EAT dismissed the appeal. It held that there had been no error of law as the Respondent was invited to the remedy hearing. It also held that as no steps had been taken to defend the claim the ET was right to proceed to awarding the Claimant’s remedy.
The takeaway point:
This case highlights how important it is for employers to be proactive when dealing with claims. I didn’t receive the claim is one of the oldest excuses in the book when it comes to reconsideration hearings and seldom succeeds as it is usually clear the employer has received the remedy judgment!
The Office Equipment case means employers can contest remedy even if they do not present a defence. However, it does not mean they will be given carte blanche to bury their head’s in the sand and ignore claims.