The Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Citizens Advice Merton and Lambeth Ltd v Mefful have recently found that it was wrong for a tribunal to consider events after a decision to dismiss had been taken, when considering a claim of unfair dismissal.
The claimant was employed as a specialist service manager at Merton and Lambeth CAB from 19 January 2004 to 15 August 2012, when he was dismissed for redundancy following a restructuring exercise which had been initiated by the Respondent in February 2012. The tribunal found that the decision to dismiss the Claimant had been primarily based on the Respondent’s view that he lacked capability and engagement which they did not wish to manage. The tribunal held that the decision to dismiss had been taken (without the Claimant’s knowledge) on 19 March 2012, was considered a ‘done deal’, and everything which took place after that date in the redundancy process was a sham. The Claimant subsequently became disabled in April 2012 and the tribunal held that the dismissal was tainted by disability discrimination, relying on incidents from April 2012 onwards (which post-dated the decision to dismiss). The Respondent appealed.
The EAT found that the facts established pre-19 March 2012 did not support a conclusion that the decision to dismiss was tainted by direct disability discrimination. The rationale behind the EAT’s decision was that a) the Claimant was not a disabled person within the statutory definition under the Equality Act 2010 before April 2012 and b) the decision pre-dated the Respondent’s date of knowledge for the purposes of a section 15 claim under the Act. There was no connection between the non-engagement and performance issues pre-19 March and the Claimant’s disability. The EAT held that the tribunal had therefore been wrong to consider events that took place after the decision to dismiss had been taken or find that the dismissal was disability related, since in this case disability could not have affected the reason for dismissal.
The case was therefore remitted back to the tribunal for reconsideration.
What this means for employers
This case reinforces the importance placed on facts known prior to a decision is made to dismiss. It highlights that in some circumstances, employers will not need to be concerned about events that occur after the decision has been made to dismiss an employee.
For more information, please contact a member of the Employment Team.