Employment Law Speed Read – 11/06/18
11th June 2018
This week we look at a decision from the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in relation to a misconduct dismissal where the employee had a clean disciplinary record.
Quintiles Commercial UK Limited v Mr A Barongo
In Quintiles Commercial UK Limited v Mr A Barongo, the EAT held that a dismissal for serious misconduct was not necessarily unfair where the employee had faced no disciplinary warnings in the past.
The Claimant was employed as a Medical Sales Representative for the Respondent, who supplied sales staff for pharmaceutical companies.
He was dismissed on notice for gross misconduct, namely failing to complete a compulsory compliance training course and failing to attend a compulsory pioneer training course.
The Claimant accepted that this amounted to misconduct but appealed against his dismissal on the basis of mitigating circumstances.
On appeal, the Respondent re-categorised the misconduct as ‘serious’ rather than ‘gross’ but upheld the decision to dismiss.
The Claimant brought a claim for unfair dismissal.
The Employment Tribunal (ET) found for the Claimant, holding that his dismissal had been unfair.
The ET explained that as soon as the appeal officer characterised the Claimant’s actions as serious misconduct as opposed to gross misconduct, the Respondent “could only be in warnings territory given that the Claimant had a clean disciplinary record”.
The ET held that where dismissing an employee for serious misconduct, prior warnings must apply.
Employment Appeal Tribunal
The EAT found that the ET had erred in finding that an employee had to have prior warnings to be dismissed for serious misconduct.
The EAT noted that the categorisation of conduct would be crucial for determining a complaint of wrongful dismissal. However, for the purposes of unfair dismissal, the dismissal was capable of being fair provided that it was simply for a reason relating to the employee’s conduct.
The legislation did not lay down any rule that, absent earlier disciplinary warnings, a conduct dismissal for something less than gross misconduct must be unfair.
The EAT also noted that “it may be in most cases an ET will find that a dismissal in such circumstances falls outside the band of reasonable responses, but it should be careful to simply assume so”.
The case was remitted to a fresh ET for reconsideration.
This case is a word of warning for employers who commonly dismiss for serious misconduct as they may need to re-think how they categorise unacceptable conduct.
Although the EAT found that a dismissal for serious misconduct wouldn’t automatically be unfair where there were no prior warnings, they did note that in most cases a Tribunal will find that it falls outside the band of reasonable responses.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our employment team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.