Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

This case concerns

  1. the attribution of fault for a dismissal to an employee if the employee engages in misconduct outside of work that results in a prison sentence; and
  2. how the Employment Tribunal should approach the remedies of re-engagement and reinstatement

The facts in Prior v City Plumbing Supplies Ltd

Mr Prior (“the Claimant”) worked for City Plumbing Supplies Ltd (“the Respondent”) as a driver. In May 2008 he was convicted for homophobic behaviour towards a third party and subjected to a restraining order. In December 2008 he was convicted of the same offence and in June 2009 breached the restraining order. The Respondent gave the Claimant a final written warning in the last instance for bring its name into disrepute but received a complaint from a customer in March 2010 regarding the Claimant’s behaviour. He was given a further written warning which was subsequently overturned on appeal. However, in May 2010 the Claimant was convicted for breaching the restraining order and received a sentence of 18 weeks’ imprisonment, of which he actually served 9 weeks. He was dismissed as a result.

The Claimant subsequently submitted a complaint to the Employment Tribunal of unfair dismissal. The Employment Tribunal found that the period of time that the Claimant would have been absent from work was not sufficient to frustrate the contract of employment. There was not therefore a relevant fair reason under s.98 of the Employment Rights Act 1998 and a finding of unfair dismissal was arrived at. However, the Employment Tribunal found that the Claimant was two-thirds at fault for the dismissal and reduced his compensation accordingly. Further, the Employment Tribunal dismissed the Claimant’s contention that he should be reinstated or reengaged but did not give reasons for doing so. The Claimant appealed on the basis that:

  1. The Tribunal had made errors of law in concluding that the Claimant was guilty of contributory fault and had failed to specify the conduct which evidenced such. Further, the Employment Tribunal had failed to give sufficient reasons
  2. The Tribunal had failed to give any reasons at all for rejecting the Claimant’s request for an order for reengagement or reinstatement

The law relating to misconduct, unfair dismissal and contributory fault

In order for a dismissal to be fair, the Respondent must prove on the balance of probabilities that its reason to dismiss the Claimant fell inside one of the six potentially fair reasons specified in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (such as misconduct, incapability etc.). However, if the nature of the termination of the contract is such that one of the six potentially fair reasons doesn’t apply then Respondent’s often try and argue that the contract was frustrated on the facts – that it was impossible for the employee to fulfil his obligations to the employer (in this case the employee’s unavailability).

For an employee to be deemed at fault for his dismissal, the employee must (obviously) have been in some way culpable for their dismissal. The amount that the Employment Tribunal will reduce an award by depends on the unreasonableness of the employee’s conduct and the Tribunal has complete discretion as to the amount of the reduction (even up to 100%).

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decision in Prior v City Plumbing Supplies Ltd

The Employment Appeal Tribunal found in the Claimant’s favour on the second ground of appeal (the order for reengagement or reinstatement) but not on the first ground (contributory fault).

The EAT found that the Tribunal had specified what conduct the Claimant had engaged in that was unreasonable, and further determined that they had linked such unreasonable conduct to the dismissal. On that basis the Tribunal had reduced compensation by two-thirds (instead of the 100% requested by the Respondent). However, the failure to give any reasons at all for the rejection of the order for reengagement or reinstatement was an error of law. The matter was therefore remitted to the Employment Tribunal on this issue.

Our specialist employment lawyers’ thoughts on Prior v City Plumbing Supplies Ltd

As with many cases in the Employment Tribunal, this case centres on the Employment Tribunal’s sometime predilection to fail to give adequate reasons for arriving at a conclusion. A failure to give sufficient reasons is an error of law. If you have received a Judgment which (in your opinion) doesn’t fully set out reasons for the conclusion then you may have solid grounds for an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

About Chris Hadrill

Chris is a specialist employment lawyer at Redmans. He specialises in contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including breach of contract claims, compromise agreements and Employment Tribunal cases. He writes on employment law matters on a variety of websites, including Direct 2 Lawyers, Lawontheweb.co.uk, LegalVoice, the Justice Gap and his own blog. Contact Chris by emailing him at chadrill@redmans.co.uk

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

    Your first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry

    Contact us

    Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

    T: 020 3397 3603
    E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
    W: www.redmans.co.uk

    Testimonials

    4.78 Average

    262 Reviews

    Anonymous

    I found the advice I was given by Redmans Solicitors to be clear and useful and found the solicitor on my case to be both knowledgeable and approachable.

    Posted 3 days ago

    Karen T

    Great service. Thank you.

    Posted 4 days ago

    Anonymous

    Excellent service from Chris & Mel Chin. The best outcome was achieved from the redundancy process. They were extremely thorough, listened carefully and acted swiftly on my behalf. I highly recommend Redmans Solicitors

    Posted 5 days ago

    Shanine M

    Excellent service, thank you so much!

    Posted 6 days ago

    Anonymous

    I found Caroline and Chris very Helpful and provided excellent service. Caroline especially provided great legal advice and made me feel at ease with the whole process. I would highly recommend them. Thank you!

    Posted 1 week ago

    Gayle B

    Excellent company very professional would definitely recommend

    Posted 1 week ago

    Alex K

    Redmans provided an excellent service, timely and effective. Will definitely recommend.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Anonymous

    Great job done on my employment law

    Posted 1 week ago

    Dominica S

    Caroline & Chris were very prompt and efficient.Very happy with the service and will definitely recommend Redmans Solicitor to everyone !

    Posted 1 week ago

    Sandra K

    If you are looking for a group of solicitors who are Professional, Caring and on point, then look no futher than Redmans. I was literally hand held through out my case. Can not find fault with this company, very happy with the result and the service i received. Would highly recommend Redmans.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Anonymous

    I found dealing with Redmans a pleasure. I got to speak to someone quickly, the advice was profferred promplty and the service was not 'pushy'. In addition, the administration was excellent. What more could you ask for?

    Posted 1 week ago

    ALISDAIR L

    Redmans did a brilliant job regarding my redundancy agreement. I miss read an extra charge which wasnt the case so doing a new review to clarify. I would recommend Redmans for any employment law issues you may have.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Christos G

    Great legal advice and quick correspondence. Very supportive and helpful through the entire process. Thank you Redmans!

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    Chris Hadrill advised me on a redundancy settlement agreement. He was very responsive, easy to deal with and gave me good advice at a stressful time.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Zara M

    Rana at Redmans gave me support and confidence I needed to ensure a wrong, was put right. I couldn’t recommend enough.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Stuart T

    Chris provided an excellent service, he was efficient and friendly and I had no doubt when recommending him to my colleagues

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    Excellent service, prompt responses. Chris Hadrill provided excellent and efficient service.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Jane M

    Wonderful solicitors who really listen to you and who are there to offer expert legal advice but they also have a personal touch and you really feel supported both from a legal aspect but also from a personal aspect. They really listen .

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    They dealt with my case professional and swiftly. The advise was helpful and enabled me to make the right decisions in my case.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    I have received a great legal advice from Redmans on a very short notice. I’d highly recommend them.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Michael D

    Excellent, efficient advice - the whole matter was concluded with minimum fuss and an excellent outcome.

    Posted 2 weeks ago