Employee Wins Employment Appeal Tribunal Claim
Employee dismissed for over-zealous approach to health and safety succeeds with Employment Appeal Tribunal claim.
In the case of Sinclair v Trackwork Ltd the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has decided that an employer could not rely on evidence that a supervisor had annoyed colleagues and demoralised the workforce when introducing a new safety procedure.
A dismissal will be automatically unfair if it is deemed to be on the grounds that the employee had health and safety duties. At the Employment Tribunal hearing the employer had argued that the employee had not been dismissed because of his responsibility for health and safety issues but rather because of the manner in which those responsibilities had been undertaken and the demoralising impact to colleagues that had resulted. The Employment Tribunal agreed that this was a valid distinction and the claim failed.
The EAT, however, disagreed stating that, “the souring of relations, or the over-zealous manner in which the Claimant carried out his duties, are not matters which can be said to be properly separable from the carrying-out of those activities.” As such the EAT accepted that the employee had been dismissed because of his responsibility for health and safety matters. In reaching this decision the EAT placed weight on, “the fact that carrying out such activities will often be resisted, or regarded as unwelcome, by other colleagues,” and that this was one purpose of the protection provided by legislation.
This case does not mean that an employee with responsibility for health and safety matters can never be disciplined or dismissed. However, this case does highlight some of the risks particularly where the reason for dismissal arises from friction with colleagues.
A link to the case can be found here.
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All advice is correct at time of publication.