‘Heat of the moment’ resignations and dismissals
The EAT held that an Employment Tribunal erred finding that an employee’s resignation in the heat of the moment was really intended.Read more
This case raises important considerations for employers regarding the use of technology, as well as an employee’s right to disconnect.
The claimant, Ms Alsnih, worked as an Online News Editor for the respondent’s newspaper. Initially considered to be a self-employed freelancer by the respondent, Ms. Alsnih was later determined to be an employee. Due to an unmanageable number of articles being uploaded – often exceeding 100 a day – the respondent introduced a work-tracking app called Viber to streamline article submissions and prevent duplication of stories. While AAPA initially stated that installation of the app was voluntary, Ms. Alsnih was specifically asked to use the app to avoid duplicating articles. Ms Alsnih was not provided with a mobile phone for work use and therefore was asked to install the app on her personal device.
Ms Alsnih objected to installing Viber on her personal phone, stating that she found this intrusive due to the constant stream of notifications she was receiving, and that it stopped her from being able to separate work from her personal life. She requested a work phone or for the app to be installed on her laptop as alternatives to having it on her personal phone, but this request was denied, and her access to work systems was subsequently blocked. She raised a grievance, making complaints of bullying, harassment, and race discrimination, before the employment relationship was eventually terminated.
The Tribunal concluded that Ms Alsnih was unfairly dismissed.
The tribunal found that Ms Alsnih’s refusal to use the Viber app could potentially be deemed as ‘conduct’ that could be a fair reason for dismissal. However, they found that on the facts the dismissal was unfair, as no reasonable employer would dismiss an employee for refusing an intrusive app on their personal phone. The tribunal found potential alternative solutions existed, such as providing a work phone or installing the app on a laptop, which had been raised by Ms Alsnih but were refused without good reason.
The tribunal went on to find that the dismissal was also procedurally unfair because no disciplinary process took place. The employer’s mistaken belief that Ms Alsnih was self-employed contributed to the lack of proper procedures.
The Tribunal awarded Ms Alsnih nearly £20,000 for unfair dismissal. An additional £12,000 was granted for breach of contract, unpaid holiday pay, and unlawful deductions from wages.
This case serves several reminders regarding the relationships between employer and employee.
Employers must show flexibility towards their employees – in this case, for example, Ms Alsnih suggested several viable alternatives to installing the app on her personal mobile, which were dismissed by the employer.
The case also highlights the importance of employers understanding the employment status of people working for them; a miscomprehension on the part of Al Quds Al-Arabi Publishing & Advertising in this case resulted in unfair dismissal and an increased payout for Ms Alsnih.
Finally, this case highlights issues regarding an employee’s right to disconnect – their right to disconnect from work outside of normal working hours.
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