Gallacher Vs. Abellio ScotRail
Gallacher Vs. Abellio ScotRail
When it comes to dismissing employees, most businesses are motivated to do so by the employee’s capabilities, conduct or circumstances surrounding redundancy. However, there are reasons other than this that fall under ‘other substantial reasons’ which are seldom accepted at tribunals. Dismissing an employee in the UK is no simple task, precautions to avoid litigation exposure should be at the forefront of any HR worker’s reasoning and a good organisation should have procedures in place to mitigate the need for dismissals all together. What makes the case of Gallacher Vs. Abellio ScotRail so interesting is this: Action taken against the Claimant was legally permissible to bypass existing procedures and jump straight to dismissal.
It is rare that even a well-constructed argument is accepted for ‘other qualifying reasons’, however this case attributes this to the irretrievable breakdown in relationship between the Claimant and their manager. Simply put, the relationship between the employee and their manager could never be fixed – so attempting to repair it and avoid dismissal would not only be futile, but would make matters worse and prolong the inevitable need to dismiss the Claimant.
As with any dismissal, the aim for HR departments is to ensure that their business is being as reasonable as possible - which in this case meant taking the Claimant’s disability into consideration. While the Claimant attempted to introduce parameters surrounding disability (menopause and depression) into their argument, the tribunal ruled that ‘the Respondent did not know (and could not reasonably have been expected to have known) of her disability.’ Although the Respondent and the Claimant had discussed taking time off work for occupational health with a phased return, the Claimant may have assumed that this was synonymous with disclaiming a disability, which was not the case. Acting on HR best practice advice, the Respondent’s defence was centred around the breakdown of relationship between themself and the Claimant – serving as a reminder that protected characteristics should always be considered when dismissing an employee.
It is not often that HR advice is acknowledged (let alone praised) in tribunal cases, but this case is a great example of how getting the right HR advice can help protect businesses when employees begin to make accusations. The HR department of Abillio ScotRial found that not only was the Claimant a senior manager whose behaviour should serve as an example to others, but it was vital that her working relationship with the Respondent was amicable, especially during busy periods of business. Additionally, there was evidence to suggest that the Claimant acknowledged the breakdown in relationship herself but was unmotivated to repair the situation.
‘…this was one of those rare cases where it was open to the Tribunal to conclude that dismissal without any procedure was within the band of reasonable responses.’
Essentially the argument for unfair dismissal was lost because the dismissal was fair. The Claimant’s disability was not explicitly disclaimed to the Respondent, so their defence had the capacity to focus solely on the breakdown in relationship. Had the Claimant tried to ameliorate their relationship with their manager, the trial’s outcome could have been different. What we take away from this case is this; there are circumstances where following existing procedures can be futile, but we must exercise great caution when deciding whether to bypass them. We also learn to prepare for arguments where cases of protected characteristics may arise.
If you require support around dismissals, or if you want to find out how Amica HR can work in partnership with you to benefit your business, you can contact a member of the team on 01522 370190 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .