Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that the Employment Tribunal (ET) had no jurisdiction to refuse to accept a claimant’s ET1 claim form, on the ground that it found some of the handwriting illegible, because the form did contain the required information.
Mr May made several claims against the London Borough of Greenwich. He submitted his handwritten ET1 claim form on the last available date of the three-month period for so doing. In trying to include as much detail as possible of his various claims, his writing became progressively smaller. This made it difficult to read, especially when the form had been photocopied. The ET rejected Mr May’s claim, which meant that the time limit for bringing his claim had, in effect, expired, so he appealed to the EAT against the rejection.
In deciding solely whether or not the ET was right to refuse Mr May’s claim, HHJ Serota found that parts of the claim form were perfectly legible and he was able to read the entire document without the need of a magnifying glass. In his view, a document is legible if it can be read without the use of a magnifying glass and illegible if it cannot. He therefore found that the ET’s decision to reject the document because it was illegible was simply unsustainable.
The judge then went on to examine the circumstances in which the ET has jurisdiction, under Rule 3 of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure, to decide not to accept a claim. The relevant circumstance in this case would be if the claim did not include all the relevant required information. As there was no question that the required information on Mr May’s ET1 form was readable, it could not be said that these details had not been provided and there was no ground for refusing to accept the claim.
The judge went on to give his opinion that the correct course of action for the ET in such cases is to require the claimant to produce a more readable copy of the claim form within a specified period of time and, if necessary, to impose sanctions for any failure to do so. In any event, illegibility of part of the document would not justify a refusal to accept the entire claim if the relevant required details are included.