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Should an unfair dismissal claim be allowed to proceed even where there is no prospect of a monetary award?

Associate Solicitor, Charlotte McBride

The Employment Appeal Tribunal in Evans v London Borough of Brent has considered whether a claimant could proceed with their claim of unfair dismissal, despite there being no prospect of a financial award.

Background

The Claimant was employed by the Respondent as a Deputy Head Teacher. The Claimant was subject to a disciplinary procedure after allegations were made against him regarding alleged misconduct and financial mismanagement. A disciplinary hearing was arranged, however the Claimant applied for it to be postponed so that his sister could accompany him to the hearing and so that he had sufficient time to review the relevant documents, which ran to 800 pages. This request was refused, the disciplinary hearing proceeded in the Claimant’s absence and the decision was taken by the Respondent to dismiss him. The Claimant subsequently lodged a claim of unfair dismissal at the Employment Tribunal.

The Law

Where a claim of unfair dismissal is successful, an employment tribunal will make a finding that the claimant has been unfairly dismissed. An employment tribunal may then consider awarding one or more of the following remedies:

  • Reinstatement; or
  • Re-engagement; and/or
  • Compensation.

However, despite all of these remedies being available to a tribunal, the most sought-after remedy is usually compensation. This is partly due to the costs many claimants’ incur in progressing their claims through the tribunal system.

Decision

The Employment Tribunal (“ET”) in this case concluded that the majority of the Claimant’s unfair dismissal claim had no reasonable prospects of success, except for on procedural fairness grounds as the Respondent had failed to postpone the disciplinary hearing, and that there was no prospect of the Claimant receiving any financial award. Therefore, the ET considered that the claim should be struck out. The Claimant appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) upheld the appeal. The EAT concluded that even without the possibility of any monetary remedy, the actual finding of unfair dismissal could be of value and that the ET had not considered this point. The EAT went on to find that the ET had, however, been entitled to strike out all parts of the claim, save for those relating to procedural fairness grounds.

Comment

This case is a useful reminder of the importance an employment tribunal may place on a finding of unfair dismissal and serves to highlight that a tribunal may not necessarily strike out a claim on the basis that the claimant is unlikely to receive a monetary award in the event their claim is successful. However, it is worth noting that the EAT made the following remark, “Ultimately, I do not know what the value of a pure finding of unfair dismissal on the basis postulated by this ET might be for this Claimant.”, so despite the appeal being allowed, it is another question entirely of whether the Claimant will value a finding of unfair dismissal by itself, given the additional costs he will need to incur in progressing his claim.

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