It can sometimes be fair to dismiss without following any procedure

A senior manager who was dismissed without any formal procedure has been found to have been fairly dismissed. The EAT has ruled that this case – where the employee was dismissed because of the irretrievable breakdown in relations with her manager – provides a rare example of a scenario where a tribunal was entitled to conclude that a dismissal without any procedure fell within the "band of reasonable responses".

In cases like these, the factual findings of the employment tribunal will always be crucial. The following were probably the most significant:

  • The relationship concerned was between two senior employees (the claimant and the manager to whom she reported) at a time of significant pressure for the business in which they were working;
  • The tribunal concluded that the claimant’s view of her place in the workplace, while genuinely held, did not “chime with reality”;
  • The claimant had accepted that her relationship with her manager had broken down;
  • The employer had been entitled to conclude that this was not a case where disciplinary or capability proceedings would have been appropriate;
  • The tribunal was persuaded that following any procedures would not only have served no purpose, but would in fact have worsened the situation.

There have been exceptional cases in the past where it has been held reasonable for an employer to dispense with procedure. However, this is the first appellate unfair dismissal ruling for many years where a breakdown in a working relationship has been centre stage. The exceptional facts – and crucially how the evidence played out in the tribunal – means this decision should be characterised as an exception that proves the rule, rather than a blueprint for senior management when faced with similar difficulties.

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