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ET’s unfair dismissal judgement overturned on Appeal

November 19, 2013 10:41 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Redundancy is a difficult process to get right with the many steps and stages each providing opportunity for a claim. In this case, Nicholls v Rockwell Automation Ltd, heard at Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), an appeal was considered following an Employment Tribunal’s judgement that the claimant was unfairly dismissal.

The employee, Mr Nicholls, was made redundant and made claim of unfair dismissal to Employment Tribunal (ET) citing a number of reasons including the redundancy was not genuine, the procedure was unfair and unreasonable, and challenged the marks he received in the selection scoring process. He was successful in his claim at ET, however the outcome was appealed.

In hearing the appeal, the EAT found the original ET, when considering Mr Nicholls complaints, undertook a broad assessment to understand whether the employer acted reasonably in dismissing the employee.  The EAT also noted the ET found that the Claimant’s dismissal followed a redundancy scoring exercise, that there was a redundancy situation and a fair process, applied with no ulterior motive, but held that the dismissal was unfair as certain scores were ‘clearly lower than they should have been’.

In considering the appeal, the EAT stated “the Tribunal has erred in law in embarking upon a detailed critique of certain individual items of scoring for the purpose of determining whether it was reasonable to dismiss”. The EAT found that the ET had make a mistake in:

  • Engaging in a detailed critique of certain items of scoring in determining if it was reasonable for the employer to dismiss the Claimant, and;
  • Substituting its own view for that of the employer.

The EAT examined the selection criteria and scoring, the heard evidence from the managers involved. Once again, this supports the importance of documentation, administration, and carefully thought through process.

In conclusion the EAT said “…we conclude that the appeal against the finding of unfair dismissal should be allowed.  Moreover we have no doubt that we should substitute a finding that the dismissal was fair.”

For the employer, this will have been a costly claim to defend (but they were right to do so), from gathering of their evidence, preparing thier bundle(s), gathering witness statements, responding to ET’s requests, complying with ET’s deadlines, time out of the workplace while in ET for managers – that’s just the basics, off the top of our head.

If you know, or even think, you have a redundancy situation looming, we urge you to get in touch. We work hard with clients to keep them out of Employment Tribunal by following the correct redundancy processes. If you want to get it right, or you’ve made a redundancy and are worried about a claim, ring us on 0845 463 3231 and we’ll talk things through with you.

Top tip – Prevention is better than cure.



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