Aspin v Metric Group Limited, Queen’s Bench Division, 11 March 2004


No duty of care when giving reasons for dismissal: Aspin – a sales director – was made redundant, and told to clear his desk immediately. He took home some files and a computer to retrieve personal information (such as his income tax returns). They were returned a few days later, with no evidence to suggest he had copied the contents.

Metric subsequently told Aspin he was being dismissed for gross misconduct on the basis that he had removed confidential information from its offices without permission. He brought a claim for damages arising from the termination of his contract.

Among other things, he argued that Metric owed him a duty of care not to distribute inaccurate information as the reason for his dismissal, which would harm his future job prospects.

The court ruled that an employer did not owe a worker a duty of care in giving reasons for dismissing that employee or in disseminating those reasons. The duty of care owed by a former employer was specific to the giving of references, and did not apply more generally to the reasons surrounding the dismissal. Imposing a duty in such circumstances would not satisfy the criteria of fairness, justice and reasonableness. Moreover, there was no causative link between Aspin’s difficulties in finding alternative employment, and the reasons given for his dismissal.

 

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