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


    4.78 Average

    216 Reviews

    Valentina D

    Great service from Mel, she was very good at explaining every part of the settlement agreement and very efficient dealing with the HR team. Very professional team, I would definitely use them again in future if the opportunity came up.

    Posted 2 hours ago

    Olaf S

    I was very happy with the service that I have received. Thank You Regards

    Posted 3 hours ago

    Rebecca A

    I had a wonderful solicitor called Caroline who was so helpful and gave me all the information I need and explained everything in detail so I was crystal clear. Would highly recommend if you are in need of a solicitor!

    Posted 2 days ago

    Gareth J

    Very efficient, helpful and pragmatic support from Caroline. Happy to work with my requirements / suggestions but also made some very good points which helped to achieve a higher settlement amount. Would highly recommend Caroline and Chris.

    Posted 2 days ago

    Ellen S

    Excellent, professional, timely. Friendly when I needed it most. Would recommend to anyone.

    Posted 3 days ago

    Ellen S

    Excellent, professional, timely. Friendly when I needed it most. Would recommend to anyone.

    Posted 3 days ago

    Cristina G

    Very professional and reliable. Timely answers, clear and to the point. Always looking for the best for their customers.

    Posted 4 days ago

    Rob T

    Very professional and on target - highly recommended.

    Posted 1 week ago


    Very efficient service and knowledgeable solicitors.

    Posted 1 week ago


    Excellent response time from first contact. Quick and easy completion of documents required. Fast response to any queries I made.

    Posted 1 week ago


    Redmans Solicitors did a great job and were very professional at all times. Would definitely recommend.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Gary P

    All good advice, prompt and efficient

    Posted 2 months ago


    Excellent advice and customer service.

    Posted 3 months ago

    Aneet G

    I would definitely recommend Redmans. Very impressed with service provided. They were extremely proactive in handling my case which made things easier for me. Provided sound advice and resolution. Special credit for this goes to Chris who dealt with my case with great determination and consideration.

    Posted 3 months ago

    Fern M

    Very efficient and friendly

    Posted 3 months ago

    Neville S

    A professional and friendly service, which I would highly recommend.

    Posted 3 months ago

    Daniel T

    Extremely helpful and made a bad situation much more manageable. Where other solicitors seemed disinterested in my situation Redmans immediately made me feel like it was a team effort to achieve a more favourable outcome

    Posted 3 months ago

    Paul T

    Excellent, quick and informative. Chris was a real star and gave me confidence during the uncertainty if a redundancy settlement.

    Posted 3 months ago

    Marina E

    Felt in very capable hands was listened to and given excellent advice. Would not hesitate to recomend and use again if needed.

    Posted 3 months ago

    Rosa B

    Fabulous service all round.

    Posted 3 months ago


    Redmans were quick to respond to my enquiry and dealt with my case professionally and personably. I received sound advice and was put at ease by Chris Hadrill, Partner.

    Posted 3 months ago