Legal update: Reason for dismissal – clarity is vital

11 March 2015

Robinson v Combat Stress

The case of Robinson v Combat Stress shows the need for an employer, when it dismisses an employee as a result of a number of separate incidents, to be entirely clear about the reason for the dismissal.

In this case, the employee was dismissed on account of three separate incidents. The employer considered that when all incidents were taken into account, the threshold for gross misconduct had been met, and the employee was consequently dismissed. The Tribunal found that the investigation process followed by the employer into one of the three incidents was flawed, and one which no reasonable employer would have followed. However it found that the dismissal was fair on the basis that it would have been reasonable for the employer to dismiss for gross misconduct on the basis of the other two reasons alone.

The EAT clarified that it is the actual reason(s) the employer had for the dismissal which must be identified, not whether there might have been a good reason for the dismissal. Therefore the Tribunal had erred in its consideration of the matter. Here the employer had clearly had in mind all three incidents as the reason for dismissal. The case was remitted to a fresh tribunal.

The case serves as a reminder for employers to be entirely clear about the reason for the dismissal of an employee. If there are a number of factors at play, an employer should plainly identify which of those it is relying on as the basis for its decision.

For further information, please contact a member of the employment law team.

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