The case published today in the EAT of Northamptonshire County Council v Entwhistle is a useful reminder of the law around the reasonably practicable argument when a Claimant presents a claim outside the normal time limit for unfair dismissal and has sought advice. In this case the Respondent wrongly informed the Claimant he had three months to present a claim when in actual fact he only had six weeks left. The Claimant instructed DFA law in Northampton who worked on the same assumption and negligently did not spot the error. The claim was submitted two weeks late but four weeks before the wrong date given.
The Response raised the time point and the matter went before the Regional Employment Judge who in first instance allowed the claim out of time, as he felt it was not reasonably practicable to present the claim in time. The EAT disagree and applied the Dedman principle (a 1970’s case) that where a Claimant consulted skilled advisers the question of reasonably practicability is to be judged on such advice as they reasonably would have given him not the actual advice he received.
It followed from the finding of negligent advice that the solicitors had not given advice they should reasonably have given him in all the circumstances. The fact the Respondent misled the Claimant first was a factor in the first instance decision but the EAT felt that Claimant had a chance to have this corrected by his professional advisers. The claim was dismissed and a finding of negligence made against the solicitor involved.