Time limits for discrimination claims

Published: 19 February 2020

Last updated: 19 February 2020

What countries does this apply to?

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales

If you think you have been discriminated against you should act quickly, as there are time limits for lodging a claim with an employment tribunal or court.

We would advise you to lodge your claim promptly and not wait until the last possible moment, after genuine attempts to resolve matters have already been taken and failed.

There is no general discretion for an employment tribunal to extend time for lodging a claim. However the time limit can be extended if, in all the circumstances of the case, the employment tribunal considers that it is 'just and equitable' to extend time. This happens exceptionally and only in very limited circumstances will the employment tribunal consider that it is 'just and equitable' to extend time. Because the tribunals exercise their discretion sparingly we advise that claims should always be served within the relevant time frame.

Employment discrimination claims

Most claims to an employment tribunal must be made within strict time frames. 

The tribunal must receive a claim within three months minus one day from the date of the first act(s) you are complaining about.

For example, in an unfair dismissal claim it would be three months from the date of your dismissal.

Your claim will not be accepted unless you have an early conciliation certificate from Acas. You need to apply to Acas before the time for bringing your claim has expired. More information about early conciliation is on the Acas website. 

In discrimination cases, claims must be lodged within three months (minus one day) of the act or acts of discrimination about which you are complaining. Where there has been continuing discrimination or a series of acts of discrimination, the date from which the time limit starts to run will differ. It can be difficult to determine if your case involves a series of linked acts or separate distinct acts, but this can affect the time limits. Please contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) Helpline to determine if your claim is in time.

Pension claims for part-time workers

Part time worker pension cases must be brought within 6 months minus 1 day of your employment relationship ending, be that a change of contract or termination.

Redundancy claims and equal pay claims

There are special rules relating to redundancy and equal pay claims. For more information about these claims, please contact the EASS Helpline.

Where to find a claim form

Employment tribunal forms and guidance are available on GOV.UK. The form that will need to be completed is called an ET1 and can be completed online or downloaded, along with a guide explaining how to complete the form.

Other discrimination claims (not about employment)

If you have been discriminated against in other matters, like purchasing goods or receiving a service, this is dealt with by the County Court (in England and Wales) and the Sheriff Court in Scotland.

County and sheriff court deadlines for these claims are six months less one day from the date of the incident you are complaining about.

How to make a claim

Information about how to bring a civil claim in the County Court (England and Wales) can be found on the HM Courts and Tribunals pages on GOV.UK. For sheriff court claims in Scotland, from the Scottish Court website.

Detailed information about the civil procedure rules can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

Judicial review proceedings

Judicial review allows people with enough interest in a decision or action by a public body to ask a judge to review how lawful it is. This can be about an action, a decision or a failure to act in the exercise of a public function. It may be used where there is no right of appeal or where all avenues of appeal have been exhausted. You must follow the 'pre-action protocol' for judicial review, which is a code of good practice and contains the steps that you should follow before making a claim for judicial review.

An application for judicial review must be filed quickly and no later than 3 months after the grounds to make the claim first arose. You should always consider alternative ways to resolve the dispute, including mediation.

Detailed information about the procedural rules can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

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Contact Acas for further information

If you are involved in an employment dispute or are seeking information on employment rights and rules, you can contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas):

Freephone: 0300 123 1100 (8am to 6pm Monday to Friday)

Text Relay service: 18001 0300 123 1100.

Visit the Acas website
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0300 123 1100

Advice and support

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS).

The EASS is an independent advice service, not operated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Phone: 0808 800 0082

Or email using the contact form on the EASS website.
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Call the EASS on:

0808 800 0082