Mr Caspall was employed by E.ON Control Solutions Limited (E.ON) (who were at the time called Matrix Control Solutions (Matrix)) and, whilst he was still in employment, he contacted ACAS to start Early Conciliation (EC) in respect of potential unfair dismissal and unlawful deductions from wages claims.
EC enables employees and employers to engage in negotiations to try and avoid matters proceeding to an employment tribunal. Every employee is required to notify ACAS of their intention to bring a claim and to obtain an EC certificate before commencing legal proceedings. The EC certificate number must be included on the employee's claim form (ET1). Mr Caspall obtained an EC certificate in respect of his potential claims against Matrix.
Matrix subsequently changed its name to E.ON and Mr Caspall consequently made an additional EC notification to ACAS and obtained a second EC certificate. Notwithstanding the change in name, as the second certificate related to the same claims and legal entity as Mr Caspall's first certificate, it was invalid and could not be relied upon. Later Mr Caspall submitted numerous ET1 claim forms to the employment tribunal using variations on the names of Matrix and E.ON.
One of the ET1 claim forms, which was completed by Mr Caspall's solicitors, noted the wrong EC certificate number. The number used was that of an EC certificate relating to a different employee who was also bringing a claim against E.ON and was represented by the same firm of solicitors as Mr Caspall.
Another of the ET1 claim forms included the number of Mr Caspall's second invalid EC certificate.
At a preliminary hearing the Employment Tribunal (ET) allowed Mr Caspall to amend his claim forms as it was in line with general principles of access to justice and the ET's overriding objective to manage cases justly and proportionately to do so. E.ON appealed the decision.
The EAT agreed with E.ON and allowed the appeal. The EAT noted that under the Tribunal Rules of Procedure the ET was mandated to reject the claim forms if they did not include an accurate EC certificate number. It was not merely that Mr Caspall, or his representative, had made a typographical error in this case - the EC certificate numbers used related to a different employee and an invalid certificate. The claim should therefore have been rejected and returned to Mr Caspall with a note explaining the reasoning and how he could apply for the rejection to be reconsidered.
Although it was Mr Caspall's solicitor who had put the incorrect EC Certificate number on the ET1, it is important to remember that anyone who is bringing a claim is under an obligation to check that all the information on the form is correct before it is submitted to the ET.
The case highlights that the risk of failing to do so can lead to the claim being rejected. In the event that the claim is rejected, there may be an opportunity for the claimant to resubmit a claim, however, many employment claims are subject to a 3 month limitation period and there is a risk therefore that by the time the claim is rejected, returned and resubmitted, the time limits may have expired. All information provided to ETs in claim forms and responses should be checked thoroughly.