A manager is causing problems. They’ve opposed a particular business plan every step of the way. You were absolutely fine with that to start with – you make a point of inviting views from all quarters. But when you decided on an action plan, and asked this manager to oversee it, her continued opposition was a major hindrance.
So what do you do?
Actions of this sort may, in certain circumstances, be considered gross misconduct and justify dismissal without notice. The linked case, Temitope Adeshina v St. George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, demonstrates this point.
These are the principal points that I drew from the case:
- The employer didn’t try to avoid the main issue. Opposition to a strategy is not generally seen as a valid reason for dismissing an employee. The employer might have been tempted to fudge it – to focus on minor issues and make them out to be major. They did not do that.
- The dismissal letter ran to 17 pages. The Court of Appeal was rather critical of that length, noting that the appeal letter said the same thing in four pages.
- Don’t miss the wood for the trees – at the Court of Appeal, the claimant identified discrepancies between different witnesses, and said that the employment tribunal had failed to make precise findings as to who was right. The Court of Appeal found such discrepancies unsurprising. What was relevant was that “a clear picture” emerged showing “deliberate disengagement” and a “mutinous attitude”.
- Finally, this case shows how important a fair disciplinary appeal can be. The employment tribunal had identified unfairness in the dismissal procedure and would have found the dismissal unfair – however, the internal appeal panel had discounted the unfair aspects, and, considering the overall procedure, had concluded that dismissal would be fair.
In brief, if you focus on the overall picture and the actual facts of the case, you should remain on the right side of the law. Of course, there will be cases in which following that approach results in a decision not to dismiss – you should be open to that option too; deciding on dismissal when it’s not fair could be very costly.
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One feature of the appeal panel's reasons is that, although it heard much the same evidence as Ms Ashworth, it managed to state its conclusions – clearly and cogently – in four pages rather than seventeen. Reasons do not generally get better, or less vulnerable to challenge, by being longer.