This month we bring you a plethora of interesting cases centring around dismissal in all its forms – be they agreed, part of a restructure or initiated for a reason.
This month the focus is on the details. The EAT considered the circumstances of a disabled employee’s redundancy selection interview, an employee’s claim for damages for asbestosis was increased as a result of the employer not accepting his Part 36 offer, and we delve into the Pensions Ombudsman’s error of law in not considering whether a man who took early ill-health retirement might have otherwise been able to redeploy as a reasonable adjustment and therefore could have suffered financial loss by retiring early.
- Disability Discrimination: Whether requiring a disabled employee to attend a redundancy selection interview could put him at a substantial disadvantage
- Personal Injury: The importance of considering Part 36 offers when considering damages claims
- Pensions: The Pension Ombudsman should have considered redeployment as a reasonable adjustment
- Tribunals: Appeal to EAT must attach the signed judgment, not copy and pasted text
Disability Discrimination: Whether requiring a disabled employee to attend a redundancy selection interview could put him at a substantial disadvantage
In Hilaire v Luton Borough Council  EAT 166, the EAT ruled on the employee’s appeal against the employment tribunal’s decision, rejecting his claims which alleged that his selection for redundancy, without the employer having given adequate consideration to his disability, had amounted to a failure to make reasonable adjustments. The employee, who suffered from depression and arthritis, had been required to attend an interview in a redundancy situation and he had informed the employer that he had been too ill to attend. The employer relied on the fact that the employee had been granted two extensions to the deadline for submission of an application for a role in the new structure, and that he had had been offered an alternative date for his interview. The tribunal concluded that the employer had applied a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ (PCP) of requiring the employee to attend an interview, and that he had not been placed at a substantial disadvantage by that PCP.
The EAT held that the tribunal had erred in its approach to the first aspect of ‘disadvantage’ by engaging in a binary decision concerning whether the employee could have taken part in the interview or not. The relevant matters in considering disadvantage under s.20 of the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) were the effects of the disability which made it more difficult for the disabled employee to meet an expectation of the employer (the PCP). The EAT held that, where the tribunal had found that the employee had had problems with memory and concentration and with social interaction, such problems would, at the least, have hindered effective participation in the interview. Accordingly, the tribunal should then have considered whether the limitation on the ability to participate had been more than minor or trivial.
The EAT further ruled that the second aspect of disadvantage was causation, and that there was evidence supporting the tribunal’s conclusion that the employee would not have taken part in the interview for reasons unconnected with his disability. Therefore, the EAT held that his disability had not prevented him from complying with a PCP and that, on that basis alone, the appeal could not succeed. precover from the effects which would have hindered his participation in an interview, could be considered an adjustment within t7he meaning of the Act, but that, given the significant impairment in the present case, from which recovery would have been protracted, the short delay to the date of the interview which the employer had applied could not be considered an adjustment. However, the EAT ruled that, on the evidence, the tribunal had been entitled to consider that the surrounding circumstances and the impact on other employees had meant that no step, including ‘slotting in’, would have been a reasonable step for the employer to have taken. Accordingly, the appeal was also dismissed on that basis.
Personal Injury: The importance of considering Part 36 offers when considering damages claims
In Brown v G & K Manson Ltd  EWHC 3004 (KB), the King’s Bench Division assessed damages in a claim brought against the claimant’s former employer, in circumstances where the claimant had developed asbestosis following his exposure to asbestos during his employment. Judgment on liability had been entered in earlier proceedings. Among other things, the court accepted the main elements of the submissions made on the claimant’s behalf, subject to a recalculation of the hourly rate for gratuitous care and assistance. The court accepted that the debilitating breathlessness which the claimant had begun to suffer from early 2019 from asbestosis had resulted in his wife undertaking an additional daily hour of assistance, and it took into account, among other things, the claimant’s extra energy costs as a result of the energy price cap increases, bearing in mind that his forced sedentary lifestyle required his domestic heating to be on for longer, so as to keep him warm. The court held that the appropriate total award of damages was £91,438.54, including interest.
However, the court was informed that the claimant had put forward a Part 36 offer of £72,500 in full and final settlement (meaning under Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules, whereby one party seeks to settle the claim for a fixed, whole amount, which if not accepted, can have consequences as to the award and costs). Accordingly, the EAT ruled that the consequences of CPR Pt 36.17(4)(d) came into effect, such that the claimant was entitled to an additional amount of £9,143.85, representing 10% of the amount the court had awarded, including interest. The court also awarded interest under Pt 36.17(4)(a).
Pensions: The Pension Ombudsman should have considered redeployment as a reasonable adjustment
In Andrew v Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust  EWHC 2992 (Ch), the Chancery Division allowed in part Mr Andrew’s appeal from a decision of the Pensions Ombudsman which had determined that Mr Andrew’s claim for financial loss had failed on reliance. Mr Andrew was employed by the respondent trust as a specialist orthotic technician. He was a member of two pension schemes (the 1995/2008 scheme and the 2015 scheme). Having developed significant health problems, in August 2017 Mr Andrew had applied for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 ill-health retirement (IHR). It was approved on 28 December 2017 on the basis of Tier 1, but not Tier 2. Mr Andrew’s employment terminated on 18 February 2018. When he was sent the final calculation of his pension entitlement, however, on 29 March 2018, his entitlement under the 1995/2008 scheme and the annual pension did not coincide with the estimate given to him in August 2017.
Mr Andrew complained to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman had decided that he was given the correct figures. The court held, among other things, that on the basis of the evidence available to the Ombudsman, it had concluded that but for the inaccurate IHR estimate Mr Andrew would have retired at the same time and, as such, had suffered no financial loss. There was an evidential basis for that conclusion in so far as it related to Mr Andrew’s role. In particular, while Mr Andrew might have chosen to remain on sick pay the evidence did not point inexorably towards that conclusion. In addition, the court held that there was no error in the Ombudsman deciding to proceed on the basis of the evidence before him rather than holding an oral hearing.
As to the possibility that Mr Andrew would have sought and been granted redeployment as a reasonable adjustment, the court held that the Ombudsman had not considered and rejected that possibility; rather, the Ombudsman had only considered the fact that it was still open for Mr Andrew to apply for another role. The fact that it could be a reasonable adjustment to redeploy an employee without there being a need for them to go through a competitive recruitment process had been confirmed in Archibald v Fife Council  ICR 954. Failing to consider that possibility amounted to an error of law on the part of the Ombudsman and the case was remitted on that basis.
Tribunals: Appeal to EAT must attach the signed judgment, not copy and pasted text
In Richardson v Extreme Roofing Ltd  EAT 173, the EAT held that an appeal from an employment tribunal judgment to the EAT must attach a copy of the actual signed judgment and written reasons not just text which has been copied and pasted from that judgment and reasons. If an appellant is unable to attach a copy of the written reasons or ET1 claim form or ET3 response to the appeal and instead supplies a written explanation as to why they are not included then that explanation must be genuine and set out why the appellant is unable to produce the necessary documentation.
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This month’s news highlights cover a variety of issues including consultations in redundancy, settlement agreements reaching too far, a substantial compensation award against Royal Mail, facts versus intentions in relation to employment status and a look at what’s next for Mercer v Alternative Future Group when the Supreme Court is asked to look at the legislative gap in protection for striking workers.
- Redundancy: Consultation not meaningful if it takes place after decision to apply selection criterion that inevitably leads to a pool of one
- Settlement Agreements: Unknown future claims cannot be settled in advance
- Whistleblowing: Tribunal awards compensation for career loss, psychiatric injury and substantial injury to feelings against Royal Mail
- Employment Status: The parties’ intentions do not determine employment status
- Unions: Supreme Court to hear bid to protect striking workers
Redundancy: Consultation not meaningful if it takes place after decision to apply selection criterion that inevitably leads to a pool of one
In Mogane v Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Another  EAT 139, the EAT allowed the appellant’s appeal against the decision of the employment tribunal in relation to a claim of unfair dismissal by reason of redundancy. The EAT held, among other things, that the tribunal had overlooked aspects of the issue of consultation in its deliberations, conflating consultation on alternative employment with the broader consultation required in a redundancy situation. Consultation was a fundamental aspect of a fair procedure. That aspect applied equally, with appropriate adaptation, to redundancy situations where there was no collective representation.
In order that consultation was ‘genuine and meaningful’ a fair procedure required that consultation took place at a stage when an employee or employee representative could still, potentially, influence the outcome. In circumstances where the choice of criteria adopted to select for redundancy had the practical result that the selection was made by that decision itself, consultation had to take place prior to that decision being made. It was not within the band of reasonable responses, in the absence of consultation, to adopt one criterion which simultaneously decided the pool of employees and which employee was to be dismissed.
The implied term of trust and confidence required that employers would not act arbitrarily towards employees in the methods of selection for redundancy. While a pool of one could be fair in appropriate circumstances, it should not be considered, without prior consultation, where there was more than one employee.
Settlement Agreements: Unknown future claims cannot be settled in advance
In Bathgate v Technip UK Ltd  EAT 155, Scottish EAT has held that s.147 of the Equality Act 2010 does not allow a qualifying settlement agreement to settle future claims unknown to the parties at the time of entering into the agreement. The judge considered that the existing case law was not to contrary effect. While the decision concerns the interpretation of s.147(3)(b) of the Equality Act 2010, it applies to settlement agreements made under other statutes where there is a corresponding provision (for example, s.203(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996)).
S.147(3)(b) requires the agreement to identify “the particular complaint“. This is not satisfied by a long list of claims defined by reference to their legal character or section number. Parliamentary intention was that settlement should only be available in the context of an agreement which settles a particular complaint that has already arisen between the parties, and the purpose of the statutory provision is to protect employees when agreeing to relinquish the right to bring proceedings. The statutory words suggest that Parliament anticipated the existence of an actual complaint or circumstances where the grounds for a complaint existed, and the precision of those words is not apt to describe a potential future complaint.
The EAT also considered the territorial scope of the Equality Act 2010 as it applies to seafarers. It held that an employee does not cease to be a seafarer, within the meaning of s.81 of the Equality Act 2010, by working onshore for the last six months of employment, having worked for nearly 20 years on ships. S.108 of the Equality Act 2010, which deals with post-employment claims, is dependent on the employee’s rights during employment. Where an employee is excluded from the territorial scope of the Equality Act 2010 by s.81 during employment, they are also excluded post-employment.
Whistleblowing: Tribunal awards compensation for career loss, psychiatric injury and substantial injury to feelings against Royal Mail
Following a remedies hearing, an employment tribunal has awarded substantial compensation for unfair dismissal and detriment in Jhuti v Royal Mail Group ET/2200982/2015 (3 October 2022), a whistleblowing case that had previously been subject to an appeal in the Supreme Court.
The tribunal found that the claimant had suffered a “lengthy and intense period of bullying” over five months prior to taking sick leave and being dismissed. This treatment had “destroyed the claimant’s life“, leaving her with PTSD and recurrent episodes of severe depression, and leading to the breakdown of her relationship with her teenage daughter. The medical evidence was that she would never work again due to the combined effects of her illness and the stigma of six years’ unemployment since her dismissal.
As well as financial compensation for total career loss to age 67, the tribunal awarded £55,000 general damages for psychiatric injury, £40,000 for injury to feelings and £12,500 aggravated damages to reflect the respondent’s oppressive conduct at the remedies hearing. It also made a 0.5% uplift for unreasonable failure to comply with the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
Employment Status: The parties’ intentions do not determine employment status
In Richards v Waterfield Homes Ltd and another  EAT 148, an employment tribunal erred in finding that, in a working relationship which had numerous indicators of employment status and only one in favour of self-employment, that the latter should be determinative of the issue. Self-employment (implicit in the use of the CIS scheme (a construction workers tax scheme) to pay the claimant, “under which registrants know they will be treated as self-employed”) was only one of the factors to be considered.
Looking at the findings as a whole, and consistent with case law, the only proper conclusion open to the employment tribunal was that the claimant was indeed an employee. The case was remitted to the employment tribunal for a remedy hearing on that basis.
Unions: Supreme Court to hear bid to protect striking workers
The Supreme Court will hear arguments from UNISON, the UK’s largest union, that a recent Court of Appeal decision unfairly allows employers to punish striking workers, as historic numbers take industrial action. UNISON will support Fiona Mercer, a former trade union representative, in her appeal at the Supreme Court against Business Secretary, Grant Shapps. His predecessor, Kwasi Kwarteng, had intervened in March 2022 to reverse Mercer’s win against her employer, Alternative Futures Group (AFG), a health and social care charity.
The EAT in Mercer v Alternative Future Group  IRLR 620, ruled that AFG had violated the European Convention on Human Rights when it suspended Mercer in a dispute over plans to cut allowances for sleep-in staff. But the government successfully argued to the Court of Appeal, in Mercer v Alternative Future Group Ltd and another (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy intervening)  EWCA Civ 379, that keystone labour legislation (the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992) does not protect striking workers from detrimental treatment.
Workers cannot be fired for taking part in industrial action, but that protection expires after 12 weeks—and there is a ‘legislative gap’ in what other protection is available to employees taking industrial action, the Court of Appeal said. That gap means ‘unscrupulous employers’ can make life difficult for workers who exercise their right to strike, UNISON said as it revealed that it had won permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. No date has been set for the hearing, although UNISON said it expects it in the second half of 2023.
The union is expected to argue that the UK is obliged by international labour law and precedents from the European Court of Human Rights to protect workers from detriment short of dismissal. The government is likely to counter that those standards exceed what is required under domestic legislation.
UNISON’s general secretary, Christina McAnea, said the appeal is “a chance to fix a glaring legal loophole“. “Employees only strike as a last resort and shouldn’t face punishment for protesting about their employer’s behaviour“, McAnea continued. “Hundreds of thousands of workers are thinking about industrial action as they struggle to cope with low pay in the face of soaring prices. Everyone must be able to exercise their rights without fearing they’ll be treated unfairly for standing up for themselves at work“.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org