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Workplace Relations Commission – Time Limit and “Reasonable Cause”

The case of A Company v A Worker ADJ-00005576 from from last month highlights the importance of ensuring claims are made on time. In general an employee has 6 months from the date of dismissal or date of contravention (e.g. failure to pay salary on a particular date) to lodge a claim. This can be extended where it can be shown there has been “reasonable cause” for the delay.

In this case, the Adjudicator questioned whether “reasonable cause” had been shown by the employee in seeking an extension beyond the initial six month time frame to lodge his claim for unfair dismissal and noted:

“The test for ‘reasonable cause’ was set out in the case of Cementation Skanska v Carroll, DWT 0338,as follows.

It is the Court’s view that in considering if reasonable cause exists, it is for the claimant to show that there are reasons which both explain the delay and afford an excuse for the delay. The explanation must be reasonable, that is to say it must make sense, be agreeable to reason and not be irrational or absurd. In the context in which the expression reasonable cause appears in the statute it suggests an objective standard, but it must be applied to the facts and circumstances known to the claimant at the material time. The claimant’s failure to present the claim within the six-month time limit must have been due to the reasonable cause relied upon. Hence there must be a causal link between the circumstances cited and the delay and the claimant should satisfy the Court, as a matter of probability, that had those circumstances not been present he would have initiated the claim in time”.

Test for Reasonable Cause

The Skanska case set out a five element test for reasonable cause:

1 The Complainant must explain the delay

2The explanation must be reasonable

3There must be an objective standard, applied in the circumstances of the case

4There must be a causal link between the circumstances and the delay

5 The Complainant must show that, if the circumstances were not present, he would have submitted his claim.

In this case the employee failed to show reasonable cause for failing to lodge the complaint on time.

Employment Law Case Tip

We always advise clients to lodge claims as soon as possible and not to wait until the last minute. The preparation of claims can take longer than expected and it is far preferable to be early than to try and seek an extension for “reasonable cause”.

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