Worker claimed unfair dismissal twice for the same case
In the case of Patel v Folkestone Nursing Home Ltd the Court of Appeal were asked to determine if an employee was able to claim unfair dismissal despite their earlier appeal being accepted. The employee, Mr Patel, had worked at the nursing home as a healthcare assistant before being dismissed for gross misconduct in April 2014. The employer originally found Patel guilty of sleeping on duty and falsifying resident’s records, the latter of which he was told would result in him being reported to the care home register for putting residents at risk.
Patel was able to successfully appeal the decision, and received a letter in June 2014 confirming his dismissal had been overturned. The letter acknowledged that he had only slept during designated rest breaks and therefore did not break any rules. However, it failed to make reference to the alleged falsification of records or the employers plans to report him to the care homes regulator. Mr Patel requested clarification on this point, however when it was not forthcoming he refused to return to work and proceeded to lodge a claim for unfair dismissal.
The initial Employment Tribunal (ET) held that the employer’s decision to accept Patel’s appeal did not automatically undo the dismissal, meaning he was entitled to consider himself dismissed and bring forward a subsequent claim for unfair dismissal. The ET based their ruling on the fact that there was no provision within Patel’s contract of employment which explicitly stated a dismissal would be wiped out immediately following a successful appeal. They also added that the appeal outcome letter was unclear as it failed to address the “critical allegation” of falsifying patient’s records.
The employer appealed this decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) who were asked to determine if Patel had actually been dismissed or if his original dismissal was considered to have vanished as a result of the appeal decision. The EAT overturned the previous decision and held the appeal outcome letter sent by the employer was sufficiently clear to revoke the original dismissal, despite not making reference to the allegation of falsifying records. The EAT stated that regardless of whether there in an express provision in an employment contract, the decision to lodge an appeal is made on the understanding that the employment will be automatically revived once the appeal is successful.
This decision was appealed once more to the Court of Appeal who ruled that the previous EAT were entitled to find that Patel was unable to claim unfair dismissal as his original dismissal was considered to have vanished following the outcome of the appeal. The Court went on to explain that unless it is specifically stated otherwise in the contract of employment, “the implicit nature of a successful appeal” automatically revives the employment relationship and extinguishes the original dismissal decision.
This ruling should clarify the notion that the successful appeal of a dismissal immediately reinstates an individual’s employment. Employers should also take this case as an indication of the importance of drafting clear appeal outcome letter which address all allegations that have previously been lodged against affected individuals.