Dismissing a difficult and obstructive employee

The conduct of an employee in certain circumstances can result in the irretrievable breakdown of the working relationship entitling an employer to terminate the contract of employment.

This situation occurred for one of our education clients Holmewood House School, who sought our advice part way through a dispute with one of its senior employees. At the time we were consulted, the matter was in stalemate and the school was experiencing difficulties in moving things forward. There had been a number of grievances and counter-grievances.

To shift the parties from their impasse, our employment team who advised Holmewood House recommended using an independent HR consultant to try to resolve the dispute. Our reasoning being that, if successful, this would move things forward positively, but if the employee refused to participate in the school’s grievance processes using an independent third party, it would afford the school other options. The employee did object to the independent HR consultant, leaving the school with no alternative but to terminate employment on the basis of an irretrievable breakdown of the working relationship.

Unfair dismissal proceedings were brought against the school. Whilst there had been some procedural failings on the part of the school prior to our involvement, the employee’s conduct had significantly contributed to the situation. Given the unrealistic level of compensation being sought by the employee, the school defended the claim. Although the school was found to have unfairly dismissed the claimant for procedural failings, the final award was minimal as a result of a finding of a high degree of contributory fault on the part of the employee by the tribunal. He was criticised heavily for his conduct which was found to have contributed significantly to his dismissal in the judgement.

Employment Tribunals consider all the circumstances leading to a  dismissal, including an employee’s conduct. The Tribunal can find that an employee’s conduct contributed 100% to the decision to terminate.

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