Was a dismissal for gross misconduct relating to the raising of vexatious grievances which the Claimant refused to either pursue or withdraw, fair?

Yes, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in the recent case of Hope v British Medical Association.

The Claimant brought numerous grievances against senior managers. The grievances could not be resolved at an informal stage in part because the Claimant wished to discuss his grievances with his line manager who had no authority to resolve issues.

The Claimant refused to progress his grievances to the formal stage or withdraw his grievances. He refused to attend a grievance hearing, which proceeded in his absence. The grievances were not upheld. The Respondent concluded that the Claimant’s conduct throughout the process was frivolous and vexatious. Further, the Claimant’s repeated instigation of the grievance process without following through amounted to an abuse of process. The Respondent ultimately dismissed the Claimant for gross misconduct.

The original tribunal held that the dismissal was fair. The Claimant appealed on the basis that the original tribunal had failed to consider whether the conduct relied upon was capable of amounting to gross misconduct in the contractual sense.

The EAT dismissed the appeal. According to the EAT, the real question is the statutory one of whether the employer acted reasonably in all the circumstances in treating the conduct as sufficient reason to dismiss. Whether an employee is in breach of contractual obligations is a potentially relevant consideration, but it is merely one of the circumstances to be taken into account in considering whether the dismissal was fair or unfair within the meaning of Section 98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Of course, all grievances must be handled with care and at aiMac-hr we can advise what you should do depending on the circumstances of each individual case.