A round-up of the most significant employment law cases to be published during October, which includes a look at how to carry out redundancy consultations, share transfer plans which need to transfer under TUPE, a consideration of how to carry out disciplinary action cases to avoid the appearance of bias, and an update on the latest drivers to pursue workers benefits claims.
- Redundancy: Consultation not meaningful if it takes place after decision to apply selection criterion that inevitably leads to a pool of one
- TUPE: Can the benefit of share incentive plans transfer under TUPE?
- Trade Unions: Appearance of bias in disciplinary action
- Workers: Bolt drivers pursue worker benefits claim
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  EAT 139, the EAT has held that a tribunal erred in finding the redundancy dismissal of a nurse fair, where the sole selection criterion used was that her fixed-term contract ended before that of her colleague, putting her in a selection pool of one, where no consultation had taken place prior to that decision. Ms Mogane and another nurse in a similar role were employed on a series of fixed-term contracts. Ms Mogane was invited to a meeting at which she was told about the financial difficulties the Trust was facing. Shortly after this, a decision was taken that Ms Mogane should be dismissed for redundancy as her fixed-term contract expired first. A redundancy consultation process began, which included consultation regarding the possibility of alternative employment, although this was not possible and she was dismissed.
The EAT noted that, as established in Williams v Compair Maxam  ICR 156 and Polkey v AE Dayton Services Ltd  IRLR 503, consultation is a fundamental aspect of a fair redundancy procedure. This applies equally to individual as well as collective redundancy situations. In order that consultation is genuine and meaningful, consultation must take place at a formative stage when an employee can still potentially influence the outcome. Where the choice of selection criteria has the practical result that the selection for redundancy is made by that decision itself, consultation should take place before that decision is made. A failure to do so is not within the band of reasonable responses for the purposes of section 98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The implied term of trust and confidence requires that employers do not act arbitrarily towards employees in the methods of selection for redundancy. While a pool of one can be fair in appropriate circumstances, it should not be considered where there is more than one employee without prior consultation.
Here, the Trust’s decision to dismiss Ms Mogane as her contract was the first up for renewal immediately identified her as the person to be dismissed, before any meetings or consultation took place with her. The tribunal failed to explain why it was reasonable to make that decision without consultation. The selection of Ms Mogane was arbitrary, related solely to the date on which her fixed-term contract ended. Given that she was effectively chosen for dismissal before any consultation took place, the EAT substituted a finding that she was unfairly dismissed.
TUPE: Can the benefit of share incentive plans transfer under TUPE?
In Ponticelli UK Ltd v Gallagher  EAT 140 the EAT had to consider whether the benefit of a share incentive plan could transfer under TUPE, if it was not in the employee’s contract. Mr Gallagher’s contract of employment transferred to Ponticelli under TUPE, 2006 on 1 May 2020. Prior to the transfer, he had been a member of a Share Incentive Plan operated by the transferor (Total Exploration and Production UK Limited) which he had joined in August 2018 pursuant to an agreement amongst Mr Gallagher, the transferor and the plan trustees (a voluntary scheme, not under his contract). Mr Gallagher having refused to provide an equivalent scheme, Mr Gallagher brought proceedings before the Employment Tribunal in terms of sections 11 and 12 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA). The Tribunal upheld his claims and found that he was entitled, after the transfer, to participate in a scheme of substantial equivalence to that operated by the transferor. Mr Gallagher contended that the obligations created when the respondent joined the transferor’s scheme did not arise either “under” the contract of employment or “in connection with” that contract. Accordingly, Regulation 4(2)(a) of TUPE did not apply. Mr Gallagher conceded that the obligations in question did not arise “under” the contract, but contended that they arose “in connection with” that contract. It was also argued that the Tribunal’s order was not competent. The tribunal found in favour of Mr Gallagher and Ponticelli appealed.
At appeal, the ETA held that even if the obligations created by the August 2018 Partnership Share Agreement did not arise “under” the contract of employment, they plainly arose “in connection with” that contract for the purposes of Regulation 4(2)(a) of TUPE, and the right to a plan of substantial equivalence transferred under TUPE. The order pronounced by the Tribunal was competent but should have referred to the statutory statement of particulars of employment rather than to “terms and conditions of employment” to which Mr Gallagher was entitled, which should have set out that right as ‘any other benefit’ (s.1(4)(da) ERA). Subject to that minor adjustment to paragraph 2 of the Tribunal’s Judgment, the appeal was refused.
Trade Unions: Appearance of bias in disciplinary action
In Simpson v Unite the Union  EAT 154 the EAT had to consider whether the Certification Officer had erred by failing to consider correctly and apply the relevant law to the question of whether the disciplinary process of a Trade Union gave rise to an appearance of bias by way of pre-determination. Mr Simpson was a trade union member who had been expelled. He had raised some concerns about other members but following an investigation it was found that there was no evidence to substantiate these claims, but there was evidence that Mr Simpson had made the claims vexatiously, resulting in his disciplinary action and subsequent expulsion. He applied to the Certification Officer for a declaration under s.108A Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 on the basis that the process adopted was in breach of natural justice, as it gave rise to an appearance of bias by way of pre-determination, seeking a declaration that he had been disciplined in breach of the Union’s rules.
The Certification Officer refused his application resulting in a further appeal, this time to the EAT. It held that the Certification Officer had erred by failing to consider and apply the relevant law when determining if the disciplinary process gave rise to an appearance of bias where the chairman of the disciplinary panel had also acted as the chairman of the committee which had commissioned and accepted a report into Mr Simpson’s own complaints of harassment, and then rejected the complaints and commissioned a further investigation into whether they were malicious or vexatious whilst suspending Mr Simpson.
The same person (the chairman) had also acted as the chairman of the committee which had accepted the recommendation that there be a disciplinary hearing and which had appointed him as chairman of the disciplinary panel. In addition, when Mr Simpson had written to him and requested that he not be on the disciplinary panel, he had not replied to the letter or shared it with the other members of the panel. The EAT therefore found in favour of the appellant that the Certification Officer had erred by failing to correctly consider whether the disciplinary process of the trade union had given rise to an appearance of bias.
Workers: Bolt drivers pursue worker benefits claim
According to the Guardian (6 October 2022) more than 1,600 UK drivers for Bolt, a ride-hailing app, claim they have been wrongly classified as self-employed contractors. The drivers are seeking compensation for missed holiday and minimum wage payments to which they would be entitled if deemed to be workers. Lawyers for the claimants have contacted ACAS in the first stage of lodging the claim. A driver from Bolt previously brought a test case to an employment tribunal after he was expelled from the platform.
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