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Health and Safety Dismissals – Beware!

In Sinclair v Trackwork Ltd the EAT recently reviewed a case where an employee was dismissed due to “upset and friction” caused by the way in which he implemented a new safety procedure. The employee’s colleagues did not know that he had been tasked with implementing such a procedure and complained about his approach, resulting in him being dismissed. The Tribunal found that his dismissal was automatically unfair due to the fact that it was as a direct result of him carrying out health and safety activities on the employer’s behalf.
 
This case is a prime example of the care that employers need to take when considering dismissing an employee. The employee in this case had only been employed for just over 2 months when he was dismissed. Usually an employee must have been employed for 2 years before they can bring an unfair dismissal claim. However. where the dismissal is related to an employee carrying out health and safety activities, this rule does not apply. Whilst the employer argued that the reason for his dismissal was the way in which he carried out activities which demoralised the workforce, the EAT found that as his conduct was not unreasonable or malicious, the way in which he carried out his duties was not separable from the carrying out of health and safety activities. As a result, the employee was unfairly dismissed and was entitled to compensation.
 
Employers should therefore think carefully when considering a dismissal, even if the employee has been employed for less than 2 years. If their dismissal is linked to the carrying out of health and safety duties or certain other matters then the employer’s decision to dismiss may be automatically unfair.

For further information, or a free no obligation chat, contact:

Nigel Tillott

Angela West

Gareth Price