Employee who caused ‘friction’ in the workforce protected from dismissal due to health and safety task
Thursday 27th May 2021
In Sinclair v Trackwork Ltd the Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned a decision by the Employment Tribunal to find that employees can rarely be dismissed for the way they implement health and safety measures.
Trackwork Ltd had asked Sinclair to implement a new safety procedure but not informed his co-workers of his task. Sinclair’s changes upset some colleagues and others raised concerns about what he was doing. Sinclair was ultimately dismissed for causing friction within the workforce.
Sinclair brought a claim for automatic unfair dismissal as he had been dismissed for carrying out a health and safety activity under the instruction of his employer. In the first instance, the Employment Tribunal dismissed his claim on the basis that it was the souring of relations within the workforce which was the principal reason for his dismissal, rather than the health and safety activity itself.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed Sinclair’s appeal and found he had been automatically unfairly dismissed. The ‘friction’ caused had been a direct result of the health and safety work Sinclair had been asked to carry out, not the way in which he had done it. Employers should not be able to order an employee to implement an unpopular safety measure, then dismiss them when the measure is disliked by others.
Given that many employers are opening their doors again, there will be lots of new health and safety measures for staff to implement and abide by. Employers cannot rely on the unpopularity of their own safety measures to dismiss an employee charged with implementing them.
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