A dismissal with no procedure ruled to be fair

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that a dismissal with no procedure was fair due to a breakdown in the working relationship.

The claimant in Gallacher v Abellio Scotrail Ltd worked directly under a manager, Ms Taggart, with whom she initially had a strong working relationship. However, their relationship began to break down when the claimant’s initial request for a pay rise was refused. Following a business transfer, the claimant began to complain about a perceived change in company culture and expressed wishes to leave. She again requested a pay rise, which she received, however she vocally outlined that she did not trust Ms Taggart to help her in this situation.

Although the two later held a return to work meeting which Ms Taggart distributed minutes for, the claimant took issue with these and made substantial amendments to them, by which point, Ms Taggart believed the claimant was no longer happy at work. Ms Taggart relayed her concerns to HR, outlining that she felt there had been an irretrievable breakdown in trust between them. It was decided that the claimant would be ‘exited from the business’ at her next appraisal meeting. No further procedure was followed, and the claimant was not granted the right to appeal.

The claimant brought a claim of unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal (ET), arguing that the lack of procedure made the decision unfair. Her claim was dismissed.
The ET was satisfied that there had been a break down in the relationship between the claimant and Ms Taggart, and that Ms Taggart’s concerns were genuine. The claimant seemed to be responding poorly to reasonable requests, such as working on-call, and did not seem willing to try and improve the relationship. The dismissal had occurred because of a lack of trust and confidence between two employees at a senior level, at a time when the respondent’s business was struggling, meaning it could be considered a Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR) dismissal. The ET also found that the lack of procedure did not serve to make the dismissal unfair.

The claimant appealed to the EAT, but this was also dismissed, with the EAT finding that the ET had acted correctly in this situation. They held that dismissals without following any procedures would always be subjected to extra caution by a tribunal when considering if they fall within the band of reasonable responses. However, there may be rare situations where procedures may be dispensed with because they are reasonably considered to be futile in the circumstances.

Procedure-less dismissals are rarely fair; this case turned based on the procedure being futile, which will be pivotal in cases of SOSR dismissals. Dismissals concerning conduct should still always follow the correct procedures. It should be noted that this outcome only concerns SOSR dismissals and dismissals concerning conduct should still always follow the correct procedures. To avoid potentially costly unfair dismissal claims, the safest option is to always follow pre-agreed procedures when considering a dismissal to justify that it was fair.

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