A distillery worker with 31 years’ service was summarily dismissed for allegedly urinating on a whisky barrel in November 2019. The claimant’s subsequent appeal was dismissed. He brought claims of unfair dismissal as well as wrongful dismissal.
The tribunal dismissed the Claimant’s unfair dismissal claim but upheld his claim for wrongful dismissal awarding him £11,264.76 in compensation for the 12 weeks’ notice pay he would have received if his contract had not been breached by the summary dismissal.
This was an unusual case, neatly demonstrating that a dismissal doesn’t have to be unfair to be wrongful. The tribunal found that although the Respondent demonstrated a reasonable belief that the employee was guilty of gross misconduct, they failed to prove to the satisfaction of the tribunal that the Claimant did in fact commit the misconduct alleged, and therefore didn’t have grounds for a summary dismissal.
In practical terms this means that when an employer is contemplating a summary dismissal because they have formed a reasonable belief in the employee’s misconduct, they must also consider whether they could prove the misconduct to the satisfaction of an employment tribunal in the event of a wrongful dismissal claim.