Imprisonment, Unfair Dismissals and Employee Contribution
This Employment Appeal Tribunal case highlights the need for a full procedure in all circumstances of dismissal, regardless of the reason. Here, an employee was sent to prison but was found to have been unfairly dismissed. The tribunal’s decision to reduce his compensation was called into question because of the employer’s actions.
In Carter v Aulds Bakeries, the Claimant, Mr Carter, was employed by the Respondent from March 2005 until October 2014. On 9th September 2014, he was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment. He did not report into work from 9th September 2015 until 5th November 2015, but when he did eventually, he was told he could no longer work there due to his unauthorised absence. He was dismissed on 13th November 2015, and a subsequent appeal upheld the original decision. The reason for his dismissal was given as unauthorised absence and failure to report it. He claimed unfair dismissal.
The Employment Tribunal (ET) found procedural flaws in the employer’s actions and consequently found that the dismissal was unfair. The appeal had not rectified those defects; in fact there were further flaws in the appeal procedure. The employer had not attempted to contact Carter and had not warned him that his continued absence could lead to his dismissal. Although unfair dismissal was found, the ET used their relevant powers to reduce the amount of compensation to be awarded to the employee, which they can do when they find that the employee contributed to his dismissal. In this case, the ET reduced the compensation to nil. The 100% reduction was appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
The EAT held that the ET’s written reasons regarding the reduction were not made clear. It found that ET was entitled to conclude that the Claimant’s conduct made him responsible for his dismissal, but the Judge should have considered whether a complete reduction should have been applied, taking into account all other circumstances. It may be, the EAT decided, that the ET should have considered the procedural flaws in the appeal when deciding on the amount of reduction. The ET is entitled to conclude that the claimant caused his own dismissal by taking the actions which lead to his conviction, but it is still required to consider, in all of the circumstances, what percentage of reduction should be applied.