Court Deplores Employment Tribunal’s Flawed Decision

Posted: 23rd May 2014

The Court of Appeal has lamented the ‘very regrettable outcome’ to a case in which the failure of an Employment Tribunal (ET) to give clear or rational reasons for upholding a worker’s claim resulted in an entirely abortive legal process.

In a strongly worded decision, the ET had found that the worker lost his job due to his activities as a whistleblower and that his dismissal was thus automatically unfair. The ET ruled that he had done nothing wrong to justify disciplinary action, that his employer’s investigation of his alleged misconduct had been ‘perfunctory and unfair’ and that one of his bosses had ‘deliberately engineered’ his sacking.

Although the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) was highly critical of the ‘florid’ wording of the ET’s decision, as well as the ‘confused and confusing’ reasons given, it subsequently dismissed the employer’s appeal. In what was clearly an understatement, the ET’s decision was described by the EAT as ‘not its finest hour’.

In allowing the employer’s appeal, the Court reached the ‘reluctant conclusion’ that the ET had failed in its duty to give reasons which were intelligible to the parties. The gravity of its findings against certain individuals made clarity all the more important and the Court noted, “In truth, the reasons at no point inspire confidence that a cool and rational judgment has been applied to the issues.”

In remitting the case for fresh consideration by a differently constituted ET, the Court recognised the hardship and substantial additional cost that would be endured by the worker. However, it observed, “It would be equally unjust to the employer, and more particularly to the individuals so strongly criticised by the ET, for a decision to be allowed to stand which does not properly explain the basis on which the ET reached its conclusion.”