'Perverse’ employment ruling overturned
Posted: 22nd June 2018
Employment Tribunal (ET) decisions are not always right, but it is very rare for them to be condemned as perverse. That is, however, exactly what happened in the case of a car sales manager who was irrationally ruled 50 per cent responsible for his unfair dismissal.
The manager, who was in charge of five car showrooms, had worked for the same employer for 25 years and his disciplinary record was unblemished. However, he was suspended pending an investigation into alleged financial irregularities and tendered his resignation when informed that he would face a disciplinary hearing.
Following that hearing, he was found to have negligently failed to exercise proper control over the financial management of the showrooms and was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. He subsequently purported to withdraw his resignation and launched ET proceedings.
In upholding his unfair dismissal claim, the ET found that his conduct did not amount to a fundamental breach of the implied term of trust and confidence in his contract. His summary dismissal therefore fell outside the range of reasonable responses open to the employer. However, the ET went on to find that his conduct had been culpable, exposing the employer to financial risk, and that his compensation should therefore be reduced by half.
In upholding the manager’s appeal against the latter ruling, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that it was one of those rare cases where an ET had reached a perverse conclusion. The finding of 50 per cent contributory fault was inadequately explained and contrary to a number of the ET’s findings of fact. The EAT substituted a finding that the manager was 15 per cent to blame for his dismissal.
In also allowing an appeal brought by the employer, the EAT found that it had wrongly been found liable for failing to provide the manager with written particulars of his employment, contrary to the Employment Rights Act 1996. He had been provided with a service agreement, which included a job title to which there had been no material change.
The ET had also erred in concluding that the manager had been entitled to withdraw his unambiguous resignation on the basis that it had been tendered in the heat of the moment. By that time, he had already been dismissed and there was thus no longer an effective resignation to be withdrawn. The amount of the manager’s compensation will be assessed in the light of the EAT’s ruling.