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Dismissal at Behest of Third Party

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[Thanks to Vanessa Latham of Berrymans Lace Mawer for preparing this case summary]

Is it reasonable to dismiss an employee at the behest of a third party, without considering whether the request is justified?

No, says the EAT in Bancroft v Interserve.

The Respondent had a contract with the Home Office to provide a catering service to a bail hostel. Under the terms of that contract, the Home Office could "require the removal of contractor staff whose admission would be undesirable", without giving reasons.

Following a falling out between the Claimant and the manager of the bail hostel, the Home Office wrote to the Respondent asking that the Claimant be replaced. The Claimant was subsequently dismissed, without any inquiry into the justification for the request. His claim for unfair dismissal failed in the employment tribunal.

The EAT held that the factor of whether there will be an injustice to the employee, and the extent of that injustice, will be an important consideration in deciding whether a dismissal was fair. The employment tribunal had failed to address their minds to the issue of why the Respondent did not consider the rights and wrongs of the difficulties between the hostel manager and the Claimant. In those circumstances, the employment tribunal had not properly inquired as to whether the Respondent had done "everything they could to mitigate the injustice caused by the third party's request that the Claimant no longer work on their premises". Having failed to make all the necessary findings of fact, the decision could not stand and the case was remitted to the employment tribunal.