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Employee fairly dismissed for refusing Christmas overtime


The Claimant worked at Bramble Foods Limited (“the Company”) which produces and sells Christmas goods and hampers. The Company’s busiest time is from mid-September in the run up to Christmas. All contracts of employment stated that employees may be required to work extra hours.

Prior to 2014, the overtime had been voluntary but from 2014 onwards, the Company changed this so that all employees were required to specify which Saturday mornings they could work as overtime in September and October. The Claimant refused to work any overtime in 2014.

In June 2015, all of the Company’s employees were again asked to indicate the Saturday mornings they could work in September and October and again, the Claimant refused to work any.

Despite informal discussions with her employer about working overtime the Claimant continued to refuse.

In September 2015, a grievance was raised by a colleague about the Claimant alleging that she had mocked those who had agreed to work overtime and boasted that she did not have to.

Disciplinary proceedings regarding allegations of refusing reasonable instructions and unacceptable behaviour towards a colleague commenced and she was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct.

The Claimant brought a claim for unfair dismissal.


The Employment Tribunal rejected the claim finding that dismissal was within the reasonable band of responses. The Claimant’s contract of employment contained a specific clause requiring her to work overtime if requested and she had no legitimate reason to refuse this reasonable instruction. Furthermore, the Claimant’s behaviour had become disruptive and could have had ‘disastrous’ consequences for the employer’s operations if she had not been dismissed.


If there are particular periods when a business may need staff to work extra hours to meet demand it is advisable to include a specific compulsory overtime clause in contracts of employment. By having a clause of this type, it means that an employee would need a legitimate reason to refuse to work reasonable overtime in line with their contractual obligations.

If you would like to speak to us about contracts of employment, please feel free to email us  or contact us on 0191 282 2880 for a no obligation chat.

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