The importance of adhering to time limits has been hammered home by events in the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal. However, the Court of Appeal held that an employer which was barred from defending itself before an employment tribunal should nonetheless have been permitted to participate when the question of compensation was considered.

Cardiff-based Office Equipment Systems received what was described as a “draft” compensation order in the region of £75,000 against it following a successful employment tribunal claim by former employee Jane Hughes. She had complained of unfair dismissal, unpaid holiday pay and wages, sex discrimination and breach of contract.

Hughes did not participate in the Court of Appeal proceedings because of the costs involved, and her solicitors failed to seek an order placing a limit on the costs that could be awarded against her if the company’s appeal succeeded. Office Equipment asked the Court of Appeal to award costs of approximately £34,000, payable by Hughes.

Employers barred from contesting liability do not have an automatic right to contest the level of compensation issued, but Lord Justice Bean allowed the appeal in this instance because of the significant amount at stake, saying: “There was no reason why the company should have been precluded from making submissions on the quantum of Ms Hughes’s claim following the judgment on liability.”

However, the Court of Appeal restricted the costs payable by Hughes to £12,500 towards Office Equipment Systems’ legal costs, and an additional court fee of £1,722.

Office Equipment Systems Ltd v Hughes [2018] EWCA Civ 1842