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SOSR - Business Reorganisations

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In Scott & Co v Richardson, the EAT has reminded tribunals of the low threshold for deciding whether an employer has 'some other substantial reason' for dismissing an employee

. Scott & Co was a firm of debt collectors. They wanted to reorganise their employees' contracts to introduce a shift system. This meant that employees could be required to knock at debtors' doors in the evenings (rather than during the day, which is less effective).

Mr Richardson refused to agree to the change to his contract. He said that he was willing to work evenings but (as previously) he wanted to be paid at overtime rather than normal rates. After seven months of trying to persuade him, he challenged Scott & Co to dismiss him or stop insisting on the changes. So Scott & Co dismissed him.

The employment tribunal held that the employer had not demonstrated 'some other substantial reason' for the dismissal, as Scott & Co had not demonstrated that the changes in shift patterns had discernible advantages to it.

Burton P. held that this was the wrong approach. The correct approach is whether the employer reasonably believed/concluded that the change to contract terms had advantages. It was not necessary to go a step further and prove that it did have those advantages. Provided the reason was not "whimsical, unworthy or trivial", then the employer will establish 'some other substantial reason'.

The EAT accordingly remitted the case to a different tribunal to decide whether the dismissal was fair under s98(4), which involves balancing the detriment to the employee of introducing the change against the detriment to the employer of not introducing the change.

Scott & Co. v Richardson