Case in Focus – ESL (BBSW) Ltd

scale of justice

Mr M Ham v ESL BBSW Ltd

What happened?

Mr Ham worked for the respondent, a company which provides cleaning services, and was dismissed following a refusal of what his employer said was a reasonable request. In March 2020, the claimant, Mr Ham was asked to visit his Line Manager’s house before taking equipment to a school, his line manager was self-isolating and had symptoms of Covid-19. The claimant questioned whether this trip was essential, as he was concerned for his personal health and safety. Following a heated discussion with his line manager, Mr Ham was dismissed and given 7 days’ notice. He brought a claim to the employment tribunal for automatically unfair dismissal as he had been with the company for less than two years.

The Hearings

The tribunal accepted the claimants evidence and found that he did reasonably believe that going to his line manager’s house was harmful or potentially harmful to his health and safety. Therefore, by refusing to carry out the journey, he took the necessary steps to protect himself. As this was an isolated instance of refusal, the respondent could not justify the dismissal on the grounds of his conduct, for example for unreasonably refusing instructions.

Take-away points

  • Employers should ensure that they communicate effectively with employees and should refrain from making rash decisions about dismissals.
  • Dismissals should follow an accurate and fair process, which is outlined in an employee handbook and available to all members of staff.

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Posted in Blog, HR.