Ms D Doherty v British Midland Airways Limited, EAT, 7 February 2005

Doherty was employed by British Midland Airways (BMA) as a ticket agent. She was a staff representative of the GMB, an independent trade union with exclusive negotiating rights for all BMA ground-based airport staff.

Doherty resigned and claimed constructive unfair dismissal on the ground of the trade union activities she was involved in. The tribunal concluded that Doherty had not been unfairly dismissed, and her complaint failed. Doherty appealed.

One of the issues on appeal was her claim that there is, as a matter of contract, a right that corresponds in language to the three statutory rights protecting trade unionists when they carry out trade union activities. It was argued that this right of action, in contract, is there simply because the statute provides such a right. However, there was no authority on this point.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that Doherty’s proposition was “wholly misconceived”, and the contention was rejected. The EAT therefore refused to accept that the rights given to staff under employment statutes (in this case, statutory rights protecting trade unionists when they carry out trade union activities) also provide a right of action in contract. Consequently, staff cannot necessarily claim constructive unfair dismissal whenever a statutory right is infringed.


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