Challenging an Unfair Dismissal
In certain circumstances, regardless of the length of service, an employee can argue that a dismissal was automatically unfair. Section 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) includes protection for employees against dismissal caused by working conditions which were harmful, or potentially harmful, to their own health and safety. A case can also be made if an employee refuses to work because they reasonably believe there is a serious and imminent danger to themselves or those around them.
Rodgers Vs Leeds Laser Cutting Ltd
The law surrounding health and safety dismissals was put to the test in the case of Rodgers v Leeds Laser Cutting Ltd, whereby the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the decision that Mr Rodger’s dismissal was fair for having refused to attend work due to concerns about COVID -19. He had claimed he was protecting his vulnerable child who was suffering from sickle cell disease, and therefore remained at home because he believed the workplace wasn’t safe.
Despite his employer carrying out a risk assessment and implementing various measures to reduce infection in the workplace, Mr Rodgers told his manager he would not be attending work and was subsequently dismissed a month later. He had less than two years’ service and relied on section 100 ERA to make his claim.
The EAT accepted that, in principle, an employee could reasonably believe that there were serious and imminent circumstances of danger arising outside the workplace linked to COVID-19 that prevented an employee from returning to the workplace. However, the tribunal could not conclude this was the case for Mr Rodgers, as he was unable to show any workplace dangers, and he had not raised concerns before refusing to work. Furthermore, he had breached self-isolation rules by working in a pub and driving his friend to the hospital which affected the outcome of his claim.
Points to Take Away
It is reassuring to know that those employers who did take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of infection in the workplace are in a good position to defend claims. However, all cases are fact-specific, and had Mr Rodgers been able to show his belief of serious and imminent danger was reasonable, the outcome could have been very different. The full protection afforded to employees can be found in section 100 ERA. This instance proves you need to be prepared with all facts and evidence.
Automatic and unfair dismissals are not always linked to health and safety. If there is any breach in legal compliance then you have the right to make a claim, especially if it involves you being dismissed without good reason. You can also call Hunter Global Business Solutions on 01636 701386 for any advice or guidance related to your workplace circumstances. They are always ready to help.Jo Ferguson, Hunter Global Business Solutions
Guest post by Danielle Wright Associate Solicitor, Head of Employment & HR Services, Spencers Solicitors