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Dismissal for breakdown in relationships found to be fair

In the recent case of Ezsias v North Glamorgan NHS Trust the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) found that an employee who was dismissed for being responsible for a breakdown in relationships with colleagues was fairly dismissed.

Employers will be aware that for the dismissal of an employee to be fair they will need to have a fair reason and have acted reasonably in treating that as a fair reason for dismissal. There are 6 potentially fair reasons for dismissal including some other substantial reason (“SOSR”). SOSR is a “catch-all” category which can be used when a dismissal does not easily fit within one of the other categories such as conduct or capability.

Mr Ezsias was employed by the NHS Trust from 1998 and during his employment, he raised concerns about clinical standards and called into question the competence of some of his colleagues. Due to the blunt and antagonistic way in which he expressed his concerns, there was a dramatic deterioration in the working relationships between Mr Ezsias and his colleagues. The NHS Trust dismissed Mr Ezsias in February 2005 due to the “fundamental and irretrievable breakdown of trust and confidence.”

Both the original tribunal and the EAT found that the dismissal was fair on the basis of SOSR. The NHS Trust had been entitled to dismiss Mr Ezsias because his relationships with colleagues had broken down.

This case demonstrates that employers are entitled to dismiss an employee where there has been a breakdown in relationships between that employee and their colleagues, especially where the employee’s own difficult personality has contributed to that breakdown in relationships. However, consideration should always be given, in each case, to the fair reason for dismissal and the procedure followed prior to dismissal.

For more information, please contact our Employment & HR team.


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