COVID-19 tribunal claim

Thomson Snell & Passmore were instructed to assist a medical supplies employer who was on the receiving end of an employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and age discrimination.

The claimant employee (an assembly technician) had been dismissed following a restructuring of the business during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, where sales had significantly dropped and there was uncertainty about the future of the business. Notwithstanding the redundancy, the employer had raised concerns about the employee’s absence from work during the pandemic and sought to rely on a company policy, which purported to allow the newest employee to be dismissed first (Last In First Out).

The claimant’s claims included the allegation that the redundancy was baseless and that the selection process was not applied fairly and equally across the whole business. The claimant also pointed out that his absence from work was due to his partner’s health conditions and a genuine concern for the health and safety protection in the workplace, hence why he claimed that his dismissal was on the grounds of absence and was unfair. Finally, he alleged that the company policy of dismissing for redundancy on a LIFO basis was discriminatory on the grounds of age, since employees with the shortest length of service were generally younger.

Senior Partner, Nick Hobden, was able to draft a detailed and comprehensive rebuttal of the claimant’s allegations. He contended that there as a genuine redundancy and LIFO was not the only or determining criteria for selection. The employee had limited skills in comparison to other staff, which he had not taken steps to enhance through training offered to him.  On the back of this robust defence and arguing that even if the employee had been made redundant when he was a different process would still have led to his redundancy: Nick was able to negotiate a lower value settlement on behalf of the client for the claimant. This saved the client significant time, money and stress as the parties were able to avoid a tribunal hearing. The client was pleased with the outcome and learnt significant lessons about properly managing a redundancy process in dealing with the uncertainties of the pandemic.

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