What was it about?
Unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, and late provision of employment contract.
What was the outcome?
The Tribunal determined that Sinels Advocates did undertake a reasonable investigation and found Ms Jackson guilty of misconduct. The Tribunal believed that Sinels Advocates had reasonable grounds to sustain that belief.
In relation to the wrongful dismissal claim, the Tribunal identified that Mr Sinel’s instruction to work at the office was reasonable. Ms Jackson’s contract contained an express term that she would obey instructions. The Tribunal determined that Ms Jackson’s failure to follow this instruction, and therefore breach the contractual term, was a serious matter that warranted summary dismissal.
The failure to provide a Statement of Employment Terms in a timely manner was admitted, although it was a delay caused by a third party. As there was no systemic failure or particularly blameworthy conduct that caused the breach, combined with the fact that there was no adverse impact on Ms Jackson, the Tribunal awarded one week’s pay for the breach.
What were the facts?
Ms Jackson worked as a Personal Assistant to Mr Sinel. During the COVID lockdowns in early and late 2020, Ms Jackson worked from home and then returned to the office full-time from 23 June 2021. Ms Jackson had made a request shortly before returning to the office to work from home during periods of her employment.
Following discussions, Mr Sinel refused Ms Jackson’s request to work from home. After this decision, there were several conversations about Ms Jackson’s “attitude”. The relationship between the two did not appear to recover with Ms Jackson applying for a job with another law firm.
During the interview process, Ms Jackson determined that she would work from home on the day she was due to have an interview with the prospective employer.
Ms Jackson then sent an email to all staff on the Friday advising that she would be working from home on the Monday. Mr Sinel replied that staff cannot make unilateral decisions and in response to this, Ms Jackson commented to a colleague that it “might be the last thing I do!”.
Ms Jackson then did work from home on that Monday and was shortly contacted by Mr Sinel asking for her whereabouts. Ultimately, a disciplinary hearing was convened for the following day with a warning that the hearing could result in her summary dismissal from employment.
The disciplinary hearing lasted no more than 30 minutes and included discussion in relation to both the ‘attitude’ issues and the failure to follow instruction to work from home. Following the hearing, the decision was taken to summarily dismiss Ms Jackson.
Ms Jackson chose not to appeal the decision and started employment with another business shortly thereafter.
The Tribunal determined that the process, whilst quick, was procedurally fair and that there was no evidence Mr Sinel prejudged the outcome. This, combined with the fact that the sanction was not unreasonable, meant that the Tribunal rejected the claim for unfair dismissal.