If a claim is not brought within the relevant time limit then it may be time barred; preventing an individual from pursuing those claims. Section 5 of the Limitation Act 1980 which is strictly applied (subject to a few exceptions) within the Civil Courts sets out the 6 year time limit from the date on which the cause of action accrued. In the case of a failure to pay, the time limit would run for 6 years from the date on which the individual was due to be paid.

Ms Grisanti, a former employee of NBC News Worldwide Inc has issued multiple claims in the Employment Tribunal after being informed by HMRC that, from the period of 1996 to 2003, no national insurance contributions were made towards her pension by her employer. Her claims were issued on 24 March 2015 (within three months of the termination of her employment) but related to payments dating back to 1996.

Under Article 3 of The Industrial Tribunals Extension of Jurisdiction (England and Wales) Order 1994, Ms Grisanti was entitled to pursue a claim for breach of contract in the Employment Tribunal. Despite issuing in time under Article 7, NBC argued that Ms Grisanti should be time barred under Section 5 of the Limitation Act 1980. This was due to the fact that her ability to action a claim stopped in 2009; 6 years following the date that the cause of action accrued through the employer’s failure to pay national insurance contributions.  

The Tribunal rejected the Respondent’s argument and decided not to follow the case of Taylor on the following basis:

  1. Under Article 3(c) of the 1994 Order, an employee is prevented from bringing a contract claim in the Employment Tribunal until termination of employment. She couldn’t bring the claim sooner as her employment was continuing. If the Tribunal had accepted the Respondent’s argument and applied Section 5 of the Limitation Act 1980 as requested, employees may be unable to action a claim over 6 years old. It would also mean that the 1980 Act would overrule Article 7 of the 1994 Order making it contrary to its intention to extend jurisdiction.
     
  2. The Tribunal held that, as the 6 year time limit is a procedural process which the courts can depart from, the wording in Article 3 did not prevent Ms Grisanti from bringing a claim.

This is a positive outcome for the employee in this instance but it remains to be seen whether it will be followed in future cases. This may, however, provide an alternative to suing in the Civil Courts whilst employment is continuing and risking a costs order.