Most employers will be familiar with a situation where an employee raises frequent grievances, often over irrelevant, unimportant or imagined issues and then drags their feet during the grievance resolution process. The decision in Hope v British Medical Association is a sensible outcome giving some seasonal cheer to employers.
Mr Hope was employed by the British Medical Association (the BMA) as a Senior Policy Adviser from June 2014 until he was dismissed for gross misconduct in May 2019.
Prior to his dismissal, Mr Hope brought numerous grievances against senior managers at the BMA, including grievances about grievances. Mr Hope wanted to discuss his grievances informally with his line manager. His manager was unable to do so because it concerned the decisions of more senior managers.
Mr Hope refused to progress any of the grievances to the formal stage and refused to withdraw them. A formal grievance meeting was scheduled for 21 March 2019 but Mr Hope refused to attend, despite being informed that the request for him to do so was considered to be a reasonable instruction. The meeting went ahead in his absence and his grievances were not upheld.
The BMA considered that Mr Hope’s conduct of bringing a large number of vexatious and frivolous grievances and refusing to comply with a reasonable management instruction to attend the meeting, amounted to gross misconduct. It took disciplinary action against him and eventually dismissed him for gross misconduct.
Mr Hope claimed unfair dismissal, but the employment tribunal found that the dismissal was fair. It concluded that it was reasonable for the BMA to conclude that his conduct was vexatious and unreasonable. It also found that the conduct of the disciplinary investigation and process was reasonable. Mr Hope appealed.
The main ground of appeal was that the tribunal had mistakenly failed to consider whether his conduct was capable of amounting to gross misconduct in the contractual sense and that its conclusions were perverse.
But again he was unsuccessful. The EAT dismissed his appeal, holding that the tribunal was entitled to conclude that the BMA had acted reasonably in treating the reason for dismissal, being Mr Hope’s conduct, as a sufficient reason to dismiss in the circumstances.
You can limit many potential problems of this type by making your grievance procedure clear and robust.
If you’re an employer with HR queries and problems, get in touch!
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2021 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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