Tribunal rejects worker’s appeal over wrongful dismissal during pandemic

A warehouse worker has lost his appeal against an Employment Tribunal (ET) decision, where he claimed he was unfairly sacked for self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the decision of the original tribunal in relation to section 100(1)(d) or (e) of the Employment Rights Act of  1996, which found that the worker had not been unfairly dismissed.

The claimant, Mr D Rodgers, worked in a large warehouse-type area for Leeds Laser Cutting Ltd, usually with around five other employees, when the pandemic struck in March 2020.

Days after the first lockdown was announced, he developed a cough which he put down to dust in the atmosphere. A colleague had already been off work for several days having contracted Covid.

Health issues highlighted

Mr Rodgers went home and two days later texted his employer that he would stay off work until the lockdown had eased as he had a child with health issues.

A month later he claimed that he had been sacked for self-isolating and asked the company to send his P45 which they did.

Concerns ‘not attributable’ to workplace

The claimant then brought a claim of automatic unfair dismissal, saying he had not returned to his place of work because he reasonably believed there were circumstances of danger that were serious and imminent arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic, which, in the terms of section 100(1)(d) ERA, covering health and safety, he could not reasonably have been expected to avert.

The ET dismissed his claim, saying that the decision to stay off work entirely was not directly linked to Mr Rodgers’ working conditions.

Tribunal ‘did not err in law’

The tribunal ruled that his concerns about the virus were general ones, which were not directly attributable to the workplace. The claim was dismissed and Mr Rodgers appealed.

However, Judge James Tayler, presiding at the EAT, dismissed the appeal.

He said the facts of this case showed the tribunal did not err in law by concluding that the claimant’s dismissal, over concerns related to the Coronavirus pandemic, was not automatically unfair.

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