Application of the Acas code on disciplinary and grievance procedures
In the case of Rentplus UK Limited v Susan Coulson, the employment appeal tribunal (EAT) considered whether the employment tribunal (ET) was correct in finding that Ms Coulson had been unfairly dismissed. It also considered the circumstances in which the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (the code) applies.
Facts of the case
Ms Coulson joined the company in 2015 as Director of Partnerships. Unbeknown to Ms Coulson, a decision was taken in March 2017 that she would be dismissed.
From October 2017, the company was looking for new investment and in February 2018 a new investor put £11m into the company. Following this, the company instigated a reorganisation. As more funds were available, the total number of posts were to be increased but it was described as a ‘redundancy’ exercise. Ms Coulson attended ‘consultation’ meetings in April and May of 2018.
The ET concluded that the consultation exercise was a total sham because the decision to dismiss Ms Coulson had been taken long before.
Therefore, the ET concluded that the reason for Ms Coulson’s dismissal was not redundancy and upheld her claims of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination. The Acas code specifically excludes redundancy and non-renewal of fixed term contracts on their expiry. However, because the ET held that this was not a genuine redundancy, it considered that the Acas code did apply here. Therefore, the ET awarded Ms Coulson a 25% uplift on her compensation because of her employer’s failure to follow the Acas code.
The EAT agreed with the ET that this was not a redundancy situation and that Ms Coulson had been unfairly dismissed. It also agreed with the ET that, as this was not a genuine redundancy and so there was a ‘disciplinary situation’, the Acas code should apply.
This case does not change the Acas provision that the code does not apply to redundancy dismissals. However, employers should note that ETs will look further than the reason for dismissal given by an employer: if it decides that the dismissal was not a redundancy, then the Acas code could apply.
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