A Tribunal’s power of reconsideration
In the recent case of TCO In-Well Technologies UK Ltd v Stuart, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the tribunal had erred in judgment in their decision to reconsider an issue raised by the claimant party out of time. Tribunals have the power to reconsider issues either by application of one of the parties or on its ‘own initiative’ under the Tribunal Rules 2013.
The claimant was employed by TCO from March 2014 and was dismissed. The tribunal found that the claimant’s dismissal was automatically unfair and awarded him approximately £106,000 in compensation. There was no dispute as to this figure; however the claimant sought that the figure be grossed up on account of tax liability so that he would walk away with the amount the tribunal had intended to award him.
TCO’s representatives opposed the application on two grounds: firstly, that it was submitted outside the 14 day limit for such an application and therefore was out of time; and secondly, that the issue of grossing up, and the necessary calculations, should have been raised at the hearing.
The tribunal acknowledged that there had been an error in calculating the compensation and proposed to reconsider the judgment ‘at the tribunal’s own initiative’ so as to prevent a considerable injustice to the claimant. It went on to issue a further judgment, accepting the claimant’s case that the award should have been grossed up.
TCO appealed the tribunal’s decision. The EAT concluded that the tribunal had interpreted the rules in relation to reconsideration incorrectly. It could not use its ‘own initiative’ for reconsideration simply because an application was out of time. The correct procedure would have been to have addressed the question of whether to extend the time limit in the first instance, and then deal with the substance of the reconsideration application if time was extended.
This case shows the importance of time limits when dealing with tribunals. A tribunal does have the power to reconsider a decision ‘on its own initiative’, but only in situations where there has been no application from a party. Therefore, when making an application for reconsideration by the tribunal, it is paramount that it is done within the requisite 14 day time limit.