As a general rule the time limits for bringing claims in employment matters are set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 or other legislation under which the particular right is claimed. However a basic outline listing of the general time limits for bringing actions under english law may be useful for reference.
The time limits below are set out in the Limitation Act 1980 and apply to England and Wales (different rules apply in Scotland under the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 and the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1984).
It should be noted that in particular situations special time limits may apply under other acts (see for example the 10 year long stop applied by the Consumer Protection Act 1987 s.4 and the one year limit imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998 s.7(5) for bringing proceedings against a public authority). The Courts have a general discretion to extend time limits in personal injury cases (see Limitation Act 1980 s.33 but this discretion does not apply to other types of claim where the periods of limitation are absolute (see St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council v Barnes  EWCA Civ 1372 at para 17). For recent examples see Allen v British Rail Engineering CA 2001 EWCA Civ 242,  ICR 942, London Borough of Southwark v Afolabi 2003 ICR 800 CA, Kew v Tarmac (Bettamix Ltd & ors)  EWCA Civ 1535 on 14th November 2006 and A. B & ors. v The Nugent Care Society, QBD on 28th November 2006. A Scottish example, in which the Court refused to exercise discretion to extend time under the discretionary provisions of Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 s.19A is Malcom v Dundee City Council  CSOH 38, Court of Session on 22nd February 2007).
The discretion under Limitation Act 1980 s.33 is very wide. It was argued in an appeal in a case involving sexual abuse of a school boy many years previously that a High Court judge had been wrong to have made a decision that abuse had occurred before exercising the power under s.33 to extend the time limit - it was argued that the judge "put the cart before the horse" and that that approach was wrong and vitiated the exercise of the discretion under section 33. This argument was not accepted by the Court of Appeal which dismissed an appeal by the governors of the school concerned (Raggett v Society of Jesus Trust of 1929 for Roman Catholic Purposes and the Governors of Preston Catholic College  EWCA Civ 1002 on 27th August 2010).
In briefest outline the basic time limits specified by Limitation Act 1980 for bringing court claims (currently under review) are as follows:-
See also notes at Time-limits/basic general rules and Time-limits/extension of time-limits .
Last Update: November 2013