Withdrawing a Tribunal Claim: Tribunal not obliged to make further enquiries

05 August 2014

The Court of Appeal has ruled on whether an employment tribunal should make enquiries of a Claimant when a claim is withdrawn, even in the heat of the moment.

We are grateful to Daniel Barnett for this report of the unanimous Court of Appeal decision in Drysdale v Department of Transport.

The Claimant claimed constructive dismissal, represented by his wife, who was not legally qualified. She verbally withdrew his claim during his re-examination, the employment tribunal did not expressly ask the Claimant if he agreed. The Respondent had the claim dismissed and sought costs. The appeal considered a single point: whether the employment tribunal erred in law in failing to take adequate steps to ensure that the Claimant had taken a properly considered decision to withdraw the claim.

The Court of Appeal noted that there was a '"wide margin of appreciation available to a tribunal in assessing such matters" and, setting out general principles for dealing with such matters (paragraph 49), found no error in the employment tribunal's approach. The employment tribunal here '"was under no obligation to enquire into the reasons for the decision to withdraw the claim, with either the Appellant or his representative", and the Court noted that "Other than in exceptional cases...such an enquiry would not only be unnecessary but also inappropriate".