Dismissal of employee who refused to attend self-isolating manager's home was unfair


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The tribunal has held in Ham v Esl Bbsw Ltd that the claimant's dismissal as a result of his refusal to deliver equipment to his self-isolating manager's home was unfair.

The claimant was dismissed from his cleaning service job when he refused to deliver equipment to his self-isolating manager's home. His manager had Covid-19 symptoms and the claimant was unvaccinated because it was the start of the pandemic. The claimant offered to bring the equipment to another location where it would be safe to store it. In his appeal against his dismissal he explained that he had acted out of concern for his and his family's health.

The tribunal found that his dismissal was for the principal reason that he had raised health and safety concerns. As a result the dismissal was automatically unfair contrary to section 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The tribunal held that while the claimant's inexperienced manager was dealing with huge uncertainty at the start of the first lockdown, her reaction to his concerns was not excusable. An employee being instructed to go to the home of two self-isolating individuals (his manager and her daughter) during late March 2020 was raising legitimate health and safety concerns and taking appropriate steps to protect himself in refusing to go.

Take note: This case is another instance of an employee who reasonably believed there were circumstances of imminent danger as a result of the pandemic taking steps to protect himself (and, in this instance, other persons, namely his family) from the danger. Given the timing of his actions, which were at the beginning of the pandemic, and the fact that there was as yet no vaccine available, the steps he took were appropriate and so his dismissal was automatically unfair.

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