In the recent decision of Roberta Gray v Shankill Women’s Centre , the Tribunal emphasised the importance of the standard three-step dismissal procedure which Employers must follow when dismissing an Employee.
The Tribunal paraphrased the three-step procedure set out in Schedule 1 of the Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, as follows:
“(i) The employer must set out in writing the employee’s alleged conduct or characteristics, or other circumstances, contemplate dismissing or taking disciplinary action against the employee.
(ii) There must be a meeting. The employee must be told of the decision and his right to appeal.
(iii) If the employee wishes to appeal, there must be an appeal meeting and the employee must be told of the decision.”
The Respondent in this case is a company limited by guarantee which runs various projects in the Shankill area of Belfast. The Claimant was employed by the Respondent from 2003 until 31st August 2006 as a Manager responsible for Education Support Projects.
Following unsuccessful attempts to secure funding for the ‘Youth Project’, separate from the Education Support Project, the Respondent made the relevant staff redundant. However, the Claimant remained in employment despite the fact that the Respondent had not fully secured funding for the Education Support Project.
Several meetings took place between the Claimant and management of the Respondent regarding the ongoing situation with the Education Support Project and the efforts to secure alternative funding. Taking this into consideration, the Tribunal held that the Claimant had been “…consulted repeatedly in relation to efforts to secure funding and to avoid her redundancy…”
The Claimant was eventually made redundant at a meeting on 5th July 2016. The Tribunal stated that the reason for this redundancy “was no more than a general reduction in funding coupled with ongoing difficulties in the delivery of the Education Support Project”.
However, the Tribunal criticised the “amateurish manner” of the Respondent’s actual conduct of the redundancy procedure.
There appeared to have been no letter or E-Mail from the Respondent to the Claimant setting out the decision to dismiss her on the grounds of redundancy required by the three-step procedure under Schedule 1 of the Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2003.
In addition, the Claimant was not advised of her right to appeal, either verbally or in writing, at any stage – another necessary step of the statutory procedure.
When the Claimant wrote to the Respondent on 3rd October 2016 raising a number of issues, including her selection for redundancy, it was “bizzarely treated as a grievance rather than an appeal against dismissal and not upheld”.
The Claimant also argued that a grievance which she had previously lodged against a fellow employee had a part to play in her selection for redundancy. The Tribunal rejected this contention on the basis that the Claimant could provide no evidence to support her claim.
In its decision, the Tribunal found the Claimant’s dismissal in this case was “technically unfair” due to the Respondent’s failure to comply in full with the statutory procedures. However the Tribunal also stated that “the decision was substantively fair : it had been a decision which a reasonable employer had been entitled to take”.
As a result, the Claimant was entitled to a basic award of £5,769.40 but had been paid an enhanced redundancy payment of £8,750 by the Respondent. The Tribunal therefore held the Claimant would have been fairly dismissed even if the correct procedure had been followed. That dismissal would have been delayed for one month at most. Compensation which would have been due for that one month is more than offset by an enhanced redundancy payment and no compensation is payable.
Niall McMullan is an Associate Partner in the Employment Law department of Worthingtons solicitors and can be contacted on 02890434015