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Breach of contract claims in the employment tribunal are not limited to six year time limit (five years in Scotland)

In the case of Grisanti v NBC News Worldwide an employment tribunal has ruled that the six year time limit applicable to breach of contract actions in the civil courts (five years in Scotland) does not apply to breach of contract claims brought in the employment tribunal.

This judgement is in direct conflict with an earlier tribunal decision that the six year limit did apply. With no appellate decision on the issue there is now uncertainty over whether the limits do apply in tribunal cases.

Background facts

Ms Grisanti sought to claim her pension at the end of her employment with NBC. When she did HMRC told her that there was a six year period between 1996 and 2003 where no contributions had been made. These contributions had been deducted from her pay by NBC. Whilst an investigation into the issue was ongoing Ms Gisanti lodged claims against NBC to protect her position. One of these claims was for breach of contract under the Employment Tribunals Extension of Jurisdiction (England and Wales) Order 1994. There are comparable provisions in Scotland.

NBC argued that the breach of contract claim was out of time because s.5 of the Limitation Act 1980 held that any breach of contract claim has a six year time limit (five years in Scotland). Ms Grisanti said that this limit was not incorporated in the 1994 Order and it should not be implied as you can only raise a breach of contract claim in the employment tribunal on termination of employment. There is no opportunity to raise such a claim during employment and therefore an employee could lose the right to bring a claim if the six year time limit was imposed.

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Andrew Chamberlain

Partner - Head of Employment & Chair of the SDE

I am a Partner, the National Head of the Employment Team and the Chair of the Service Delivery Executive (SDE), which is focused on building better solutions for clients.