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Hi, hope you are all doing great! It is your lucky lots turn to hear from me, Robyn Smith, this week- I know you have all been waiting in anticipation.

I don’t mean to be that person, and sorry to anyone that takes offence by this, but I am absolutely loving the fact that the weather is no longer scorching hot. I know … I know.. we have not had much of a summer and we so needed to be grateful for the sunny times we had BUT… when you are heavily pregnant hot weather is just an absolute no no. Doing any activity at all, even just getting out of bed is an absolute mission for me- you then add scorching hot temperatures into the mix, well….lets just say I was not a happy bunny.

So yes, the fact that it is so much cooler is absolute bliss for me. I know that will anger a lot of people but I am pregnant- so I deserve some leeway right?

This week also marks the week that I have my last day in the office at Precept! (I am crying… no you’re crying). I cannot believe that the day has come to be honest. I have such mixed feelings of pure excitement because it means the appearance of baby girl is just around the corner, but then I also want to hysterically cry (like that ugly cry) about the fact that I am stopping work for a while and will miss my Precept family. Although they won’t be able to get rid of me as I will be having many a visit. But do not fear, although it is my last day actually in the office this week, I will still be working for a bit longer.

Anyways, let’s get onto some actual employment law talk shall we?

Well, if you are an employment litigation buff like me you will have been horrifically aware that the Employment Tribunal (ET) online submission service was down from 6 September 2023 for about a week.

Now for someone who had a tribunal deadline on the 7 September 2023 this was a very unwelcome hurdle to be presented with. On first coming across this issue I attempted to gain access to the website 1.2 million times from the 6th until the 7th September (because naturally we were well prepared and had our ET3 drafted and finalised prior to the actual deadline!). I also attempted calling not only the ET that the claim was being heard at but also a number of the other ETs, which unfortunately, I had no success with either. I, therefore, made the decision to email the Response to the ET confirming to them all the attempts that I had made to submit the Response.

I had, of course, done the above based on the guidance within the Practice Direction on the presentation of claims. I had done it by email- so phew right?

Well, you can imagine my horror when President Judge Barry Clarke published his guidance on the matter on the 8 September 2023 which specifically stated that the only 2 ways the ET would accept submissions were via post or by hand and not as per the original Practice Direction guidance of submission by email.

You see there were a few issues with the above:

  1. The Presidential guidance was published the day after the deadline for our Response.
  2. I had in fact submitted our Response via email on the 7 September, not in line with this new Presidential guidance.
  3. I only had sight of the Presidential guidance on the day it was published, 8 September 2023- which just as a reminder, was a Friday.
  4. We work in Tribunals up and down the country, so it isn’t as easy as just popping up the road to drop the documents into the actual Tribunal building!

So how did I overcome this obstacle I hear you ask?

Well, I very frantically drafted a letter to the ET and drove as quickly as my little car would take me to post the Response. In my letter I set out all the attempts I had made to submit our Response, the evidence of my email submission as well as the fact that the guidance was only published the day after our deadline. I concluded my letter by respectfully asking that despite the fact they would receive our Response via post a few days after the deadline that they would still accept the Response due to the evidenced attempts.

On the 15th September 2023, Judge Barry published a follow up letter to the above stating that the problems with the online submission have now been resolved- PHEW! My submission was deemed absolutely fine, and everyone is happy!

So what can you take from my above story?

  1. That technology can bring its own obstacles when it comes to deadlines, so always have a back up plan.
  2. Prepare, prepare, prepare- I know that it is very much each to their own when it comes to working towards deadlines, but my biggest advice to always ensure you have a few back up days where your Response (or any other document you’re submitting to the tribunal) is ready for submission to allow some time should any obstacles arise. I was planning on submitting our Response the day before it was due. As I had the extra time planned in, it gave me further time to figure out how best to overcome the issue. Of course, this won’t always be possible- but try your best to save yourself additional stress.
  3. Always keep abreast of ET guidance- as you will see from the above, I very rightly followed Practice Direction on the subject but if I had not kept abreast of further ET guidance I would still be none the wiser of the change in instructions for submission. Things can always change, so be on top of things to keep ahead of the game.
  4. In situations like this, make sure you can evidence as much as possible any actions that you have taken so that you can clearly show to the ET that you have done everything in your power to comply with any deadline.
  5. And the BIGGIE… don’t try to navigate the litigation waters yourself and instead, just get us here at Precept involved.

If you want to discuss the above any further or have any litigated matter related queries- or anything else for that matter- then just give one of us a shout!

Speak soon 😊