News Updates

Unfair dismissal: serious misconduct

Wednesday 11th July 2018

In Quintiles Commercial UK Limited v Barongo the EAT held that a dismissal for serious misconduct is capable of being fair even when there have been no previous warnings.

Mr Barongo was dismissed for failing to complete two compulsory training courses.   Initially, QCUK categorised his dismissal as being for gross misconduct, but an internal appeal held that not completing the training amounted only to serious misconduct. However, the original decision to dismiss was upheld.

The ET held that the dismissal was unfair because Mr Barongo had received no prior warnings. It considered that once misconduct is characterised as serious rather than gross, warnings must be given, maintaining that this was the only reasonable response.

The EAT disagreed, stating that the requirement is only that the dismissal be for a reason which “relates to the conduct of the employee”, not that the conduct amounts to gross misconduct.

Further, the test of reasonableness does not include a rule rendering dismissal unfair in the absence of any prior warnings where the conduct falls short of gross misconduct. Rather, an assessment of the particular circumstances is required. The ET should not have assumed that a dismissal for serious misconduct, absent any previous disciplinary warnings, cannot be fair.

The EAT viewed the ET’s approach as “unduly limiting the potential range of reasonable responses” and considered that it had erred by substituting its own view as to the appropriate sanction. While in most situations a dismissal in such circumstances will fall outside the range of reasonable responses, the ET should not have assumed that this was the case. By focusing only on Mr Barongo’s previously clean disciplinary record, the ET had, for example, failed to consider other relevant factors, such as the loss of trust of confidence in his ability to carry out his role to the required standard. 

The case was remitted back to the ET for a new hearing.

All information in this update is intended for general guidance only and is not intended to be comprehensive, or to provide legal advice.