Dismissal without procedure?

Mrs Linda M Gallacher v Abellio Scotrail Ltd UKEATS/0027/19/SS  

In this case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) in Scotland held that a dismissal without any form of procedure or right of appeal, due to a breakdown in trust and working relationship between the Claimant and her senior colleague was fair and that in this rare instance, following a procedure at the time would have served no purpose and only worsened the situation.

The Claimant, Mrs Gallacher, had worked for Abellio Scotrail Ltd (“Abellio”) for just over 10 years, prior to her dismissal in 2017.  Initially she had a strong working relationship with her manager, Ms Taggart, however over the years several disputes arose, including over Mrs Gallacher’s repeated salary raise requests, a refusal to participate in on-call work due to a cited lack of technical knowledge and experience, and negative comments that she had made regarding Ms Taggart to other colleagues. 

Ultimately, during her performance review, which took place during a critical period for Abellio, Ms Taggart informed Mrs Gallacher of her dismissal due a lack of trust and the irretrievable breakdown of the working relationship. No formal procedure was followed and Mrs Gallacher was not given a right of appeal. 
The EAT dismissed Mrs Gallacher’s unfair dismissal claim on appeal, finding that Mrs Gallacher was not interested in repairing the relationship, which was essential to the functioning of her role, and that any form of procedure would therefore have been futile. 

This decision is a helpful reminder that a breakdown in relationships can be a fair reason to dismiss, and that procedural considerations relevant to performance and conduct dismissals may not always be relevant to such cases.  The facts of this case were however unusual and the EAT emphasised that “dismissals without following any procedures will always be subject to extra caution on the part of the tribunal before being considered to fall within the band of reasonable responses”.  In the vast majority of cases, some form of procedure, in which the employee is given an opportunity to respond to the employer’s proposed grounds for dismissal, will be required to ensure the dismissal is fair.