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Employer must wait reasonable time before dismissing employee for ill-health absence

Employers should wait a reasonable time before dismissing an employee on grounds of capability for ill-health absence, or risk a successful unfair dismissal claim, according to a recent ruling.

A disabled employee worked partly from home but the employee’s new manager refused to allow this. The employee was not happy and went absent from work for a period. She was then dismissed on grounds of capability, due to her absence from work for ill-health. One of her claims was for unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) found she had been unfairly dismissed. However, on appeal the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) said the ET had failed to consider a vital question, which was central to the issue of whether the dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses open to an employer, and therefore fair: was it reasonable to expect the employer to have waited longer before dismissing her?

The EAT ordered both parties to submit written statements of their respective positions so that it could then consider this issue, or give further directions.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers should ensure they have waited a reasonable time before dismissing an employee on grounds of capability for ill-health absence, or risk a successful unfair dismissal claim

Case ref: Monmouthshire County Council v Harris [2015] UKEAT 0010_15_2310

21 December 2015

Jonathan Waters has over 12 years of experience advising businesses in relation to commercial disputes and how to avoid or resolve them. He has a particular interest in construction law and adjudication, and he is currently studying for an Msc in Construction Law & Dispute Resolution at King’s College. Before starting Helix Law, he was the partner in charge of Commercial Litigation, Employment Law and Property Litigation at Stephen Rimmer LLP. He has a degree in Business Administration and before qualifying as a solicitor he worked in industry and investment banking for over a decade.

This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of  this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice. 

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