The ratification of an originating application after the time limit for its issue had expired was effective if the application had legal effect at the time when it was issued.
Appeal by the respondent NHS Trust ('the Trust') from the decision of the Employment Tribunal, refusing an application to strike out an originating application by the Prison Officers Association ('the union'). In September 2000, The Trust decided to change the shift patterns of its workforce who were members of the union. A number of employees’ contracts were terminated and new contracts offered incorporating the new shift patterns. The contracts of the remaining employees were unilaterally varied. The union objected to the new shift patterns and in particular, did not accept that its members’ working hours could be changed unilaterally. Blank originating applications were sent to all its members. Some members consented to the initiation of proceedings, others declined and the rest failed to respond. Rather than allowing the claims of all its members to lapse through waiting for those who had failed to respond, the union issued one originating application ('the application') in respect of all its members. The union subsequently sought to ratify the application. The Trust argued that the application ought to be struck out on the basis that it had been issued without authority. The Employment Tribunal took the view that members who had consented to the application, either before or after issue, had ratified the application and that their claims were valid. The Trust appealed submitting that: (i) the application had been issued without authority; (ii) the union's members could not ratify the application as the three-month time limit for issuing the application had expired and the application was therefore a nullity; and (iii) the initiation of the proceedings amounted to an abuse of process.
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