Fair dismissal of employee who refused to work extra hours before Christmas
In Edwards v Bramble Foods Ltd, the tribunal held that an employer fairly dismissed an employee who refused to do overtime and whose protests at being asked to do so threatened to disrupt the business.
A small food company’s busiest period is the eight weeks from mid-September, when it produces and packs goods such as gifts and hampers for Christmas.
Employees’ contracts of employment include a clause requiring them to work extra hours when the business requires.
The company decided to formalise its overtime arrangements, which involved asking employees to choose between four and eight Saturday mornings they could work in September and October.
While the rest of the workforce agreed to work some Saturdays, Mrs Edwards refused to work on Saturday mornings.
Management had a number of “informal chats” with her to explain that, by sharing the workload fairly, the company would be able to meet the demands of the Christmas period.
Mrs Edwards continued to refuse, stating that she spent Saturday mornings with her husband.
She was dismissed following a number of complaints from colleagues about her behaviour, which included that she had mocked those who had agreed to Saturday overtime (for example by boasting that she would be having a lie in on Saturdays).
Dismissal for overtime refusal: the tribunal’s view“…she [the claimant] had been given a contract of employment which said that she may be ‘required’ to work additional hours and she had no legitimate reason for refusing what she accepts was a reasonable management instruction. She just didn’t want to do the work it seems.
The consequences for the respondent had the claimant not been dismissed might have been disastrous. The respondent had been extraordinarily patient…Dismissal was unarguably within the range of reasonable responses to a very difficult situation…”
The employer was convinced that her behaviour was having an adverse effect on the workforce and that discontent was spreading. It saw her actions as a growing threat to its ability to fulfil orders.
Mrs Edwards claimed unfair dismissal.
The tribunal accepted that there were a number of minor flaws in the employer’s procedure.
Despite this, the employment tribunal had no doubt that dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses.
The tribunal found that it was reasonable for the employer to require Mrs Edwards to do some overtime and she had no legitimate reason for refusing.
The consequences for the employer of not dismissing her could have been “disastrous”.
Read more details of the case and practical tips in the light of the judgment…
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