Tom Emslie-Smith successful for the Claimant in a coronavirus related unfair dismissal case

Published: 27/04/2021 | News

Shortly after the government coronavirus restrictions of March 2020, Tom’s client was asked by his employer to travel into his workplace in Central London to return the keys to the shop. He refused on the basis that he considered this to be a breach of government guidelines and that he was at risk of getting a fine from the police. There was a discussion on the phone about this issue, following which he was dismissed. On the day of his dismissal, Tom’s client wrote a post on social media about the loss of his job and his feelings about the way that he had been treated. Some days later he was dismissed summarily for “acts of defamation.”

The judge held that Tom’s client had been unfairly dismissed on the basis that there were no reasonable grounds to believe that the claimant had made any untrue comments about the respondent and that the dismissal was procedurally unfair.

When considering whether to apply an uplift to the compensatory award for failure to follow ACAS procedures, the Tribunal judge took into account the stressful and difficult circumstances presented by the Covid situation and for that reason did not apply the maximum 25% uplift. Nevertheless, the judge agreed that there had been a wholesale failure of procedure and awarded a 20% uplift on the award.

The case is a good illustration of the stress and heightened emotions that accompanied the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The events took place at a time when there was a great deal of uncertainty about the effect that the pandemic would have on business and the job market in the immediate future. Against that backdrop, the employer in this case failed to follow their own disciplinary procedures, with the result that the Tribunal was satisfied that the employee was unfairly dismissed.

Tom Emslie-Smith has a well established civil practice here at Farrar’s Building, spanning all of Chambers’ core areas, including employment, personal injury, insurance, and general common law.

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