Case law updates

Dismissal ruled fair as following procedure “served no useful purpose”

A tribunal found a senior manager at a national train operating company to have been dismissed fairly despite a complete lack of any prior procedure or right of appeal. In Gallacher vs Abellio Scotrail Ltd, the employee Ms Gallacher claimed unfair dismissal, which was, alongside an appeal, turned down with the tribunal ruling her dismissal to be within the reasonable responses open to her employer.

Gallacher had been dismissed during a performance review having been off sick between November 2016 and January 2017, a period in which her relationship with her manager had deteriorated due to several key issues during a critical time for the business.

Although no warnings had been given prior to the dismissal, both Gallacher and her manager acknowledged the irretrievable breakdown in their trust and confidence, with the tribunal ruling any procedure would have served no useful purpose and, in fact, would have “worsened the situation”.

In the majority of cases, a lack of procedure followed, including giving the opportunity to make representations and appeal any dismissal, would fall under the category of an unfair dismissal, with such steps fundamental to natural justice and fairness.

However, cases where procedures would be futile can fall outside of this norm; and in this case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal believed Gallacher was not interested in retrieving the relationship and her manager genuinely believed there was an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship.

Expert commentators noted that while an employer should look to meet with an employee before any dismissal due to an irretrievable breakdown in relationship, it is important for employees to remember that their behaviour, if negative, will make their case significantly harder in an eventual tribunal.