Is it possible to dismiss an employee for gross misconduct for submitting vexatious grievances and a refusal to co-operate? The case of Mr Hope v British Medical Association examines the position. Mr Hope was employed as a senior policy advisor. In March 2018, he raised the first of several grievances against two managers.
Mr Hope later raised further grievances and was only willing to discuss them with his line manager who did not have the authority to resolve the issues. Mr Hope refused to either progress his grievances to the formal stage or to withdraw them.
Refused to attend meeting
As Mr Hope refused to attend a meeting to discuss the nature of his grievances, a meeting went ahead in his absence.
The chair concluded that Mr Hope’s behaviour was frivolous and vexatious. It was further stated that his repeated instigation of the grievance procedure, without following through, amounted to an abuse of the process. The grievance was therefore dismissed and the disciplinary procedure was invoked.
Mr Hope was invited to a disciplinary hearing in relation to the following allegations, that:
- He had submitted numerous, frivolous grievances against colleagues.
- He failed to follow reasonable management instructions in relation to the attendance at meetings.
- There was a fundamental breakdown of the working relationship between Mr Hope and senior management.
The chair concluded that Mr Hope’s actions amounted to gross misconduct and he was dismissed.
Mr Hope submitted a claim within the employment tribunal (ET) for unfair dismissal. The ET concluded that it was reasonable for his employer to conclude such conduct was vexatious and unreasonable. The dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses and Mr Hope’s conduct had undermined the working relationship.
Mr Hope appealed on the basis that the ET had failed to consider whether the conduct relied upon was capable of amounting to gross misconduct, arguing that they should have considered whether his actions were either deliberate wrongdoing or gross negligence.
The appeal was dismissed. The question was whether the employer acted reasonably in all the circumstances in treating the conduct as sufficient to dismiss.
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