What is every employment lawyers worst nightmare?….forgetting to attend a hearing or not being somewhere you have said you will be is certainly up there.
In this case before the Employment Tribunal in Ashfield, the Group HR Manager of the Respondent entered the 19th September into their diary when it should have been 19th August. They did not attend the hearing and the Tribunal called a branch of the Respondent and was told that they had the hearing down for September. That member of staff said nothing to the HR Manager and the first she knew of the error was when the Claimant rang her enquiring about when he would get his award. The Tribunal said nothing about an adjournment.
The ET proceeded with the case and found against the Respondent in its absence awarding the Claimant over £14,000 for unfair dismissal and race discrimination. Upon receipt of the Judgment the Respondent asked for a review which was declined. They instructed representatives who made a second application accompanied with an apology and an offer to pay the Claimant’s thrown away costs. Again this was rejected so they appealed.
The EAT upheld the appeal but it was a close one as whilst the error was entirely the Respondent’s the power to dispose of proceedings was not designed to punish a party. You can read the case here. Whilst hopefully never needing to rely on this one, it may be worth knowing for any representatives including those in-house if your nightmares become reality!