Case Study: Unfair Dismissal and Redundancy Procedures in UK Employment Law – Lessons from Strydom v Bridge Facilities Engineers Ltd

Introduction

In the complex world of employment law, understanding the intricacies of redundancy procedures, unfair dismissal, and remote work policies is crucial for business owners. This case study delves into the UK Employment Tribunal case of Mr. M. Strydom v Bridge Facilities Engineers Limited, [2023] UKET 3305964/2021, providing a detailed analysis of the key issues and offering actionable insights for businesses.

Background

Mr. Strydom, an employee of Bridge Facilities Engineers Ltd, was dismissed on the grounds of redundancy. However, he claimed his dismissal was unfair, asserting it was due to his request to work from home during the third national lockdown, a request made out of concern for his son’s health. The respondent, represented by outsourced HR consultant Ms. Tasneem Virani, argued that the dismissal was due to restructuring and downsizing.

Mistakes Made

The respondent and Ms. Virani made several critical mistakes that led to the tribunal ruling in favour of Mr. Strydom.

  1. Lack of Clear Reason for Dismissal: The tribunal found that the redundancy was a sham to cover up the real reason for dismissal – Mr. Strydom’s request to work from home. This lack of a clear and fair reason for dismissal was a significant error. In employment law, it is essential to provide a valid reason for dismissal to ensure the process is fair and justifiable.

  • Absence of Proper Consultation: The respondent failed to consult Mr. Strydom before his dismissal. He was given no warning; the redundancy was presented as a fait accompli. This lack of consultation violated the principles of fair redundancy procedures, which require employers to engage in meaningful dialogue with employees at risk of redundancy.

  • Failure to Rectify Procedural Defects on Appeal: The respondent failed to rectify any procedural defects on appeal, further weakening their position. In any dismissal process, it is crucial to ensure that any procedural errors are corrected during the appeal stage to uphold the fairness of the process.

Best Practice Solutions

To avoid such pitfalls, business owners should adhere to the following best practices:

  1. Clear Communication: Ensure that the reasons for dismissal are clear, fair, and well-documented. If redundancy is the reason, it should be genuine and not a cover-up for other reasons. In the case of Mr. Strydom, the respondent could have avoided the tribunal if they had communicated their reasons for dismissal clearly and honestly.

  • Fair Redundancy Procedures: Follow a fair and transparent redundancy process. This includes informing the employee at risk, holding consultations to discuss alternatives to redundancy, and providing the right to appeal. In Mr. Strydom’s case, the respondent failed to follow these procedures, leading to a ruling of unfair dismissal.

  • Remote Work Policies: Establish clear remote work policies. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of flexible work arrangements. If an employee requests to work from home, consider the request seriously and discuss any concerns openly. In this case, the respondent could have engaged in a dialogue with Mr. Strydom about his work-from-home request instead of dismissing him.

  • Professional HR Advice: Engage a competent HR consultant who understands employment law. They should guide the process and ensure compliance with legal requirements. In this case, Ms. Virani could have advised the respondent better on the redundancy process and the handling of Mr. Strydom’s work-from-home request.

Conclusion

The case of Mr. M. Strydom v Bridge Facilities Engineers Limited serves as a stark reminder of the importance of understanding and correctly implementing employment law. By following best practices in redundancy procedures, handling unfair dismissal claims, and managing remote work policies, business owners can maintain a healthy work environment, protect their businesses from legal disputes, and uphold the rights of their employees.

Redundancy Procedures: Redundancy is a form of dismissal and should be treated with the same level of seriousness and adherence to legal procedures as any other form of dismissal. It’s crucial to ensure that the redundancy is genuine and not a cover for other reasons for dismissal. A fair and transparent redundancy process includes informing the employee at risk, holding consultations to discuss alternatives to redundancy, and providing the right to appeal.

Unfair Dismissal: Unfair dismissal claims can be damaging to a business, both financially and reputationally. To avoid such claims, it’s essential to ensure that dismissals are fair, justifiable, and follow the correct procedures. This includes providing a clear reason for dismissal, following a fair process, and giving the employee the right to appeal.

Remote Work Policies: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of flexible work arrangements. Businesses should have clear remote work policies in place and should consider requests to work from home seriously. If an employee’s request to work from home is denied, the reasons for this should be clearly communicated and documented.

Professional HR Advice: A competent HR consultant can be a valuable asset in navigating the complexities of employment law. They can guide the process, ensure compliance with legal requirements, and provide advice on best practices. In this case, Ms. Virani could have advised the respondent better on the redundancy process and the handling of Mr. Strydom’s work-from-home request.

Remember, when in doubt, seek professional advice. A competent HR consultant can be an asset in navigating the complexities of employment law. They can guide the process, ensure compliance with legal requirements, and provide advice on best practices. In this case, Ms. Virani could have advised the respondent better on the redundancy process and the handling of Mr. Strydom’s work-from-home request.

In conclusion, the case of Mr. M. Strydom v Bridge Facilities Engineers Limited provides a valuable lesson for business owners. By understanding and correctly implementing employment law, businesses can avoid costly legal disputes, maintain a positive work environment, and uphold the rights of their employees.

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