Employment: Can an employee be fairly dismissed without procedure?

An Employment Tribunal recently ruled that an employee can be fairly dismissed without procedure in the case of Gallacher v Abellio Scotrail.

In this case, the claimant, Gallacher, was a Senior Manager in the respondent’s business, Scotrail. Gallacher’s relationship with her Line Manager broke down at a key point for the business.

Background

Ms Gallacher and her Line Manager had initially got on well together, but the relationship began to deteriorate when Gallacher asked for a raise but was refused.

The business was under significant pressure due to its performance and as a result, the tribunal found that Gallacher’s Line Manager had much less time to devote to the issue than would ordinarily be expected.

Gallacher’s manager consulted the HR department and subsequently decided to dismiss her at an appraisal meeting with no procedure, no prior notice and no right of appeal.

The tribunal found that there was no realistic prospect of any formal procedures improving the situation and that it was more likely to exacerbate the issues in their working relationship, and so any appeal would have simply been “going through the motions”.

The Employment Tribunal found that the dismissal was fair and that the decision to dismiss Gallacher without any procedure was within the range of ‘reasonable responses’ in the specific circumstances.

The reasons for the absence of any procedure

The situation in this case was particularly unusual, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) did not overturn the original decision, because there are instances in which procedures may be overlooked where the employer considers it to be ineffective in the circumstances.

The tribunal stated that the working relationship had broken down on both sides, and as there is no specific law that states that the lack of procedure results in a dismissal being ruled unfair, the original decision was upheld.

In ruling, the court stated: “Dismissals without following any procedures will always be subject to extra caution on the part of the Tribunal before being considered to fall within the band of reasonable responses.”

However, the EAT did state that “It would be an unusual and rare case where an employer would be acting within the band of reasonable responses in dispensing with such procedure altogether.

“In the exceptional circumstances of the particular case, the procedural steps normally appropriate would have been futile, could not have altered the decision to dismiss and therefore could be dispensed with.”

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Joanna Alexiou

Joanna Alexiou

Associate Solicitor at Mackrell.Solicitors
Joanna joined the firm’s Employment Law team in February 2020 having previously worked at another prominent firm of solicitors in the heart of London. Joanna has worked with clients from the finance, technology, arts and culture, marketing, charity and food and drink sectors.