The time frame in which any claim can be brought forth against an employer – including for wrongful dismissal – is set out by the 2002 Limitations Act.
The time in which you have to bring a claim forward is referred to as the ‘limitation period’. This means that from the moment a cause for a claim arises, time is ticking for you to bring it forward.
Different claims have different limitation periods. While there are very few exceptions to limitation periods, they may, under certain rare circumstances, be extended.
If you fail to bring your claim forward within the limitation period then it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to sue for wrongful dismissal
According to the Act, wrongful dismissal claims must be brought forward within two years of the day the claim was discovered.
What is considered the date of ‘discovery’?
According to the Limitations Act, the date of discovery occurs on the earlier of:
- the day on which the person with the claim first knew,
- that the injury, loss or damage had occurred,
- that the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to by an act or omission,
- that the act or omission was that of the person against whom the claim is made, and
- that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy it; and
- the day on which a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the person with the claim first ought to have known of the matters referred to in clause a.
This means that, in the vast majority of cases, a wrongful dismissal claim is discovered the day that the employee is given notice of their termination.
The 2006 case of Jones v. Friedman confirmed that:
“a limitation period commences when the cause of action arises. In a breach of contract, the cause of action arises when the contract was breached. For the purposes of a wrongful dismissal action, the employment contract is breached when the employer dismisses the employee without reasonable notice.”
According to Jones v. Friedman, the injury, loss or damage (the “cause of action”) occurs at the time of notice and not the date that the employment actually ends.
What to do if you think you have been wrongfully dismissed
If you believe that you have been wrongfully dismissed from your employment, talk to an employment lawyer as soon as possible. They have the knowledge and expertise to go over your case and recommend the best course of action for you. They will ensure that any claims to which you may be entitled are brought forward in a timely manner.