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Breakdown in relationship was SOSR dismissal

Posted on 26th July 2011
Case law

An employee was dismissed for SOSR and not conduct when the relationship between him and his colleagues broke down.

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Mr E was dismissed not because he had repeatedly complained but because the relationship had broken down

Ezsias v North Glamorgan Trust [2011] IRLR 550 (EAT)


Mr E described himself as someone who "will stand up for what he considers to be right, whatever the consequences". The Employment Tribunal (ET) described him as someone "unlikely to meet with a positive reaction from his colleagues". The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) stated this "was a significant understatement"!

Mr E made repeated complaints about his colleagues. Various investigations took place, culminating in a review of workplace relationships in Mr E's department. The conclusion was that the problems were likely to have been caused by the way Mr E raised his concerns rather than that they were raised at all and that a retrieval of working relationships "was extremely unlikely".

A petition signed by nine colleagues was raised and submitted. A further investigation was undertaken and concluded again that the relationship appeared to have broken down and there was little prospect of good relations being restored. It concluded Mr E's behaviour was to a significant extent responsible for the breakdown.

The decision

The ET and EAT agreed that Mr E was dismissed not because of his conduct (i.e. that he had repeatedly complained) but rather that the relationship had broken down regardless of the cause.

In practice

The distinction in Mr E's case was important as he was employed by North Glamorgan NHS Trust. If he had been dismissed because of his conduct then the Whitley Council rules or Trust's disciplinary procedure would have applied. Neither had been followed and Mr E's dismissal would have been unfair.

The distinction is rarely as important but it is not unusual for different procedures to apply depending on the purported reason for dismissal.

You must ensure that you correctly categorise any reason relied on and that you follow the correct procedure.

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