Case in Focus – Fire Brigades Union

scale of justice

Embery vs Fire Brigades Union (FBU)

What happened?

An employment tribunal found that firefighter Paul Embery was unfairly dismissed from his union job following a speech he made at a pro-Brexit rally in Westminster. He spoke at the Leave Means Leave Rally and was barred from being a FBU official for two years. The union held argued that Embery displayed gross misconduct by not exempting FBU officials from criticism and going against the union’s anti-Brexit policy. He was also advised by the FBU president not to attend the event as a speaker, as this went against their anti-Brexit policy.

The Hearings

The tribunal heard that there had been a number of disagreements relating to Brexit between Embery and the FBU General Secretary prior to the event in question. Embery was of the belief that the anti-Brexit policy produced by the FBU lapsed following the referendum. The judge held that Embery’s removal from office was a result of unfair dismissal under the Employment Rights Act and that the anti-Brexit policy did not apply at the time of the rally. The judge said that it seemed that there was an agenda to remove Embery from his role. Furthermore, the tribunal found that Embery’s pro-Brexit stance was a protected philosophical belied under the Equality act.

Take-away points:

  • Protected characteristics are in place to protect individuals from discrimination at the hands of their employer. All employers should be aware of these characteristics and should not discriminate in any way.
  • Gross misconduct as a means for dismissal must me used in the correct way and must be supported by evidence and adhere to the company’s policies and procedures.
  • Dismissals must not be pre-determined, dismissals be a result of a fair process being followed; it is essential that companies have detailed disciplinary processes available.

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Posted in Blog, HR.