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Dismissal by reason of third party pressure – when is this fair?

BY Daniel Gorry
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

The recent case of Bancroft v Interserve provides useful guidance on how employers should approach a dismissal as a result of third party pressure.

In this case an employment tribunal initially found that the dismissal of a chef from his long held post in a bail hostel was fair. The bail hostel was run by the Lincolnshire Probation Trust under a contract with the Home Office. The claimant’s employer, Interserve, provided catering services at the hostel, also under a contract with the Home Office.  

The relationship between the chef and the manager, who was employed by Lincolnshire Probation Trust, turned sour when the claimant raised concerns about the safety practices of other kitchen staff. Hostility between the two began to develop and the manager began to find minor faults with the claimant’s work. At this time another member of staff made a complaint about the claimant which resulted in the claimant being disciplined. 

The manager wrote to the Home Office about the claimant’s conduct stating that, regardless of the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings, he no longer wanted the claimant to work at the hostel. The Probation Trust asked Interserve to suspend the claimant and redeploy him elsewhere.  

Crucially, Interserve made no effort to get the Trust to change their mind. However, they did offer the claimant another job that was 30 miles away on fewer hours. The claimant turned down this opportunity and was dismissed. The employment tribunal found the dismissal fair as the above represented the respondent doing all it could to redeploy the claimant. It held that the dismissal was for some other substantial reason on the grounds of third party pressure. 

The claimant appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal which held that the employment tribunal had failed to consider whether the respondent had taken all steps to seek to mitigate the injustice to the claimant. In particular, they found that the employment tribunal did not consider the merit of the manager’s complaints leading up to the claimant’s dismissal.  

The lesson to be learned from this case is that if an employee is to be dismissed at the behest of a third party, the employer must show that they have taken all the available steps to try to mitigate any possible injustice to the employee. For example, the employer may offer a suitable alternative job or try to convince the third party to relent in its request for dismissal or redeployment. If these options are not explored then the employer runs the very real risk of a tribunal finding that the dismissal unfair.

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