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Dismissal for raising lots of grievances fair

View profile for Paul Burton
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Dismissal for raising lots of grievances fair

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld an employment tribunal’s decision that a dismissal was fair when an employee raised a lot of grievances that he refused to progress.

In Hope v British Medical Association the EAT agreed the dismissal for gross misconduct was fair.

Hope v British Medical Association

Mr Hope was employed by the BMA as a senior policy adviser in 2014.

Over the next few years he raised several grievances against senior managers, particularly concerning not inviting him to meetings he thought he should attend. 

Despite raising these grievances Mr Hope refused to take them to the formal stage, despite the fact his line manager could not deal with them informally, as they concerned more senior management. 

Grievance and disciplinary action

Mr Hope also refused to withdraw the grievances and wasted a lot of time over the years. 

He was eventually invited to a formal grievance meeting in March 2019, but refused to attend.

He was then disciplined for failing to comply with a reasonable management instruction and that this, together with what were considered frivolous grievances, amounted to gross misconduct.  He was dismissed two months later in May 2019.

What was the claim and decision?

Mr Hope brought a claim for unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal, but he lost when they held the employer’s decision to dismiss was in the band of reasonable responses. 

Mr Hope appealed to the EAT, arguing the tribunal had failed to consider whether his conduct amounted to gross misconduct in the contractual sense.

He argues that they should have considered whether his actions were wither “a deliberate and willful contradiction of the contractual terms” or “very considerable negligence”

What happened at the appeal?

The EAT dismissed Mr Hope’s appeal appeal.

It held that the employment tribunal was entitled to come to the decision it had based on the evidence and procedure undertaken by the employer.

Mr Hope’s conduct had been sufficiently serious to amount to gross misconduct in the circumstances. 

What should employers take away from this case?

Employment Partner Paul Burton said: “We do get many enquiries from employers about employees who raise a lot of grievances.

Understandably, they are cautious to dismiss in these circumstances, but this case demonstrates it can be done fairly, assuming a proper investigation and disciplinary procedure is undertaken. 

We would advise employers to take advice, however, particularly if the employee concerned has more than two years’ service and therefore has standard unfair dismissal rights.”

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