Can employee be fairly dismissed without any procedure being followed, after a breakdown in working relations?

Yes (in very unusual circumstances), said the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in Gallacher v Abellio Scotrail.

The Claimant was a senior manager in the Respondent’s business. Her relationship with her line manager deteriorated to such an extent that her manager decided, after consulting with HR, to dismiss her at an appraisal meeting. There was no formal procedure or forewarning. She was not given the right to appeal.

Usually, someone dismissed in the absence of any process would be confident of winning a claim for unfair dismissal. However, in this case, the EAT agreed with the Tribunal, that there can be rare circumstances where dispensing with a procedure could be considered within the band of reasonable responses that an Employer may take.

A dominating factor in this instance was that, on the facts, there had been critical and irreparable deterioration of the working relationship between the Claimant and her line manager and there was evidence to suggest that, not only would the procedure have been futile, but, if anything, it would have made the situation worse.

Cases like this will be extremely rare and any employer seeking to dispense of a procedure entirely would be wise to take legal advice before hand as this will rarely be acceptable even where relationships have broken down. However, it does illustrate that Tribunals will consider all material factors relevant to the dismissal when determining fairness.

“Dismissals without following any procedures will always be subject to extra caution on the part of the Tribunal before being considered to fall within the band of reasonable responses.”

Cases like this will be extremely rare and any employer seeking to dispense of a procedure entirely would be wise to take legal advice before hand as this will rarely be acceptable even where relationships have broken down. However, it does illustrate that Tribunals will consider all material factors relevant to the dismissal when determining fairness.

3 September 2020

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