16 April 2015 #Employment
The decision to dismiss an individual must fall within one or more of the five statutory potentially fair reasons. These are, conduct, capability, illegality, redundancy and some other substantial reason (“SOSR”). Examples falling into the last category include, personality clashes, pressure from third parties and breakdown in trust and confidence. It is ultimately a decision for the Tribunal as to whether a decision to dismiss amounts to SOSR.
This was the issue to be considered in Anderson v Chesterfield High School. The Claimant, Mr Anderson was employed by Chesterfield High School (“the School”) as a Senior Learning Mentor in 2001. Mr Anderson wanted to further his political career and from May 2010 onwards, he ceased performing any duties for the School. Mr Anderson was subsequently elected as Mayor of Liverpool in 2012, a position which he still occupies.
Following a TUPE transfer in 2011, the School achieved Academy status and was no longer publicly maintained. The School’s Governors felt that it was inequitable following the transfer for Mr Anderson to continue to receive a salary from the School when the pupils were not receiving any benefit in return. A further reason advanced by the School was that it felt it should have been consulted once Mr Anderson was elected as a Mayor as this was a substantial change from his previous role as a Councillor. The School subsequently decided to terminate Mr Anderson’s employment.
Mr Anderson was not informed of the School’s proposal to dismiss him and he was not given the opportunity to respond. The Judge described the School’s procedure as “woefully deficient” and found Mr Anderson’s dismissal to be unfair. On the issue of compensation, the Judge ruled that a 100% reduction should be applied to Mr Anderson’s compensation on the basis that the facts surrounding his dismissal amounted to SOSR. The Judge agreed with the arguments advanced by the School that even if a proper and fair consultation had been followed, Mr Anderson would still have been dismissed.
This case demonstrates that a range of circumstances leading to an employee’s dismissal may be treated as SOSR. Employers should tread carefully in seeking to rely on this reason however, as the decision to dismiss may still be subject to scrutiny by a Tribunal. If a Tribunal decides that the decision to dismiss was unreasonable and not a SOSR, the dismissal will be treated as unfair.