In the recent case of Hope v British Medical Association, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that Mr Hope had been fairly dismissed after bringing multiple frivolous grievances and refusing to attend a grievance meeting.

The facts

Mr Hope worked for the British Medical Association (BMA). He raised multiple grievances against senior managers concerning his exclusion from management meetings; the imposition of a deadline regarding whether he wanted to follow a formal grievance process; and a warning that if his grievances were found to be frivolous or vexatious this could result in disciplinary action.

Despite raising the grievances, Mr Hope refused to engage with the formal grievance procedure; but also refused to withdraw the grievances. A grievance meeting was held in his absence, due to his refusal to attend, and the grievances were dismissed.

Mr Hope was then invited to a disciplinary hearing following which he was dismissed on the basis of his conduct, including that he had raised numerous frivolous grievances, and failed to follow a reasonable management instruction to attend a grievance meeting. Mr Hope raised an unfair dismissal claim.

Was Mr Hope's dismissal fair?

In determining whether a dismissal for misconduct is fair tribunals will consider:

  1. Did the employer genuinely believe that the employee was guilty of misconduct;
  2. Did they have reasonable grounds for that belief;
  3. Was the belief based on a reasonable investigation; and
  4. Was dismissal within the range of reasonable responses open to a reasonable employer.

In Mr Hope's case, an employment tribunal found that Mr Hope's dismissal was fair and, after Mr Hope's appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the tribunal had been entitled to reach that conclusion.

In practice

Although this decision will be of interest to employers in managing employees who submit multiple grievances, every case should be managed in light of its own facts – it will not always be reasonable to dismiss an employee for raising serial grievances, or to take disciplinary action if an employee fails to attend a grievance meeting.

Employers should ensure that they follow appropriate grievance procedures (at least in line with the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures) and assess each grievance on its individual facts and merits.

More information 

For assistance with dealing with grievances, get in touch with our employment and immigration team

Workbox by Brodies, our online HR and employment law site, also has step-by-step guidance on managing grievances, along with supporting templates, including a Grievance Policy, example Grievance Investigation Report and template letters for each stage of the process. To arrange a free demo of Workbox, please get in touch with our Workbox team ([email protected]).

Contributor

Lucy Rice

Trainee Solicitor