another health and safety dismissal – this time it was unfair
Employees are entitled to raise their concerns of health and safety at work and if they are dismissed for doing so, they may have a claim for automatic unfair dismissal under section 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
In this recent case, Ms O’Harris worked as a nanny for Domitille Rambaud for just over two years. Ms O’Harris raised concerns about her employer’s husband who failed to quarantine for 14 days on his return to the UK from France, contrary to her understanding of the government guidelines. She was concerned for her health and the health of her family. The next day she was dismissed as part of another health and safety dismissal.
Ms O’Harris claimed that she was unfairly dismissed, relying on section 100(d) and (e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (“ERA”). These sections can be summarised as follows:
An employee shall be regarded as unfairly dismissed if the reason, or the principle reason, for the dismissal is that in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, she left or refused to return to her place of work or she took appropriate steps to protect herself or other persons from danger.
Domitille Rambaud failed to file its defence in accordance with the tribunal deadline and its application to extend time was refused. However, it was required to take part in the remedy hearing.
The Tribunal agreed that Ms O’Harris was automatically unfairly dismissed. Ms O’Harris was awarded £38,292.65 in compensation in result of the unfair health and safety dismissal. This is a first instance decision, so not binding in law and each matter will turn on its own facts.
You can read the full judgment here.
This update was written by Joanne Sinclair, Trainee, didlaw.