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Failure to comply

Employment Law Review Issue 845 09 November 2023


The law says that a tribunal can strike out a claim (or part of it) if one of the parties fails to comply with an order it has made. In Chauhan v University of Leicester, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the tribunal was entitled to strike out Mr Chauhan’s claim as he had failed to comply with an order to provide further information to clarify the basis of his claim.


Basic facts

Mr Chauhan, who worked for the University of Leicester as a cleaner from January 2016, brought a tribunal claim for race discrimination in July 2019. As he was acting on his own behalf at this stage, he filled in the application form himself. His employer asked, in October 2019, for further information because they could not understand the basis of his claim.

After a case management hearing in July 2020 at which Mr Chauhan was represented by solicitors, the judge ordered him to provide full details of his claim by the end of July. However, the tribunal then stayed his claim to allow him time to deal with some mental health issues he was experiencing. When he felt well enough, he dismissed his solicitors and, in October 2020, asked the tribunal to grant him more time to respond to the July 2020 order.

The tribunal agreed to extend the date to 4 January 2021. This was then extended further to 18 January and subsequently 25 January, with the clear warning that his claim was at risk of being struck out if he did not comply. The warning was in bold type and the notification was headed up in block capital letters: “UNLESS ORDER”. On 25 January 2021, Mr Chauhan sent a series of emails which purported to provide the information in response to the request by his employer in October 2019.


Tribunal decision

Although the tribunal accepted that Mr Chauhan had to be given some leeway as a litigant in person, it held that the information he had sent could not “on any fair reading” be said to have helped the university or the tribunal to understand the claim.

Whilst acknowledging that claimants sometimes use “narrative styles”, the judge held that Mr Chauhan’s response “goes well beyond that. It is incoherent and in places, to use the respondent’s words, a stream of consciousness”. As no “reasonable person” could say that he had complied with the unless order, the judge struck out his claim.

Mr Chauhan appealed, arguing that the order had not been clear in terms of what he was required to do; he had not understood that his claim would be struck out in its entirety if he failed to comply with it; and that one specific part of his claim should have been allowed to proceed as he had complied with the requirements of the order in relation to it.


EAT decision

Dismissing the appeal, the EAT held that:

  • Although the unless order was, on the face of it “probably too vague”, it was still obvious that Mr Chauhan was being asked to provide further and better particulars with regard to his employer’s request for more information in July 2019;
  • That the provision in the unless order that the “claim” would be struck out was clearly referring to the entire claim; and
  • Although Mr Chauhan had provided some information in relation to one particular aspect of his claim, it was not enough to allow that aspect to be adjudicated separately from the others.



It would seem that this claimant (who was initially a litigant in person) could not articulate his case himself. This put him at a disadvantage with regard to at least some of his complaints which may well have had merit had they been properly pleaded.