Case round-up

Details are not necessary at step one of a grievance

Martin v Class Security Installations Limited, Employment Appeal Tribunal, 16 March 2006

BACKGROUND Mr Martin wrote to his employer, Class Security Installations Ltd, explaining that bullying and intimidation and a “last straw” incident (of which there was no detail) had resulted in his resignation. Martin contended before a tribunal that his letter, together with two subsequent letters to Class from his solicitors, had raised a statutory grievance. One of the solicitor’s letters referred to Class’s “repudiatory breach of contract” and to Martin’s intention to raise a grievance before beginning proceedings for constructive dismissal.

decision The tribunal held that Martin’s claims of constructive dismissal and disability discrimination should be struck out because of Martin’s failure to raise a statutory grievance. One of the solicitor’s letters could not be relied on because it was sent less than 28 days before the claim was made. In relation to the other letters, he found that there was insufficient detail of the actions complained of.

appeal On appeal, it was accepted that the issue of disability discrimination was not raised as a grievance. In relation to the constructive dismissal claim, Class argued that the language of the solicitor’s letter would lead any employer to understand that although it would be informed about a grievance in due course, there was no grievance raised there and then. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) disagreed and found that the chairman’s reference to the lack of detail in the letters disclosed an improper approach. It is not necessary for detail to be set out at the step one stage when the grievance simply needs to be identified. The EAT concluded that the letters did raise a statutory grievance. The constructive dismissal complaint could therefore proceed.

COMMENT The test should be whether, on fair reading of the statement, the employer can be expected to appreciate that the relevant com-plaint is being raised. Full detail of the complaint is not required for this test to be satisfied, so employers should beware of refusing to treat a letter as raising a grievance due to lack of detail.

Age limits are not discriminatory… for now

Secretary of state for trade and industry v Rutherford and another, House of Lords, 3 May 2006

In the long-running challenge against the statutory age limits for claiming redundancy pay and unfair dismissal brought by Mr Rutherford and Mr Bentley, the House of Lords has finally handed down its decision.

BACKGROUND Rutherford was dismissed by his employer in 1998 at the age of 67. He brought claims for redundancy pay and unfair dismissal. Bentley was dismissed by his employer in 2001 at the age of 73. He claimed a redundancy payment. The secretary of state became a party in the proceedings following the insolvency of both employers, and the cases were heard together. Although both men were over the statutory age limit of 65 for bringing the claims, the tribunal ruled that their claims could proceed because the statutory age limits were indirectly discriminatory against men, since more men than women worked beyond the age of 65. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) allowed the secretary of state’s appeal on the basis that the tribunal had wrongly found a disparate impact on men. Rutherford and Bentley’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed in September 2004.

APPEAL The House of Lords unanimously ruled that the upper age limit of 65 for claiming unfair dismissal and redundancy pay is not indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex. However, their lordships arrived at this conclusion for different reasons. Most of the lords considered the case could be rejected on grounds that had nothing to do with the statistical evidence. The age limits apply equally to men and women who choose to work beyond the age of 65 and so were not discriminatory. The minority broadly supported the statistical analysis of both the EAT and the Court of Appeal, and agreed that there was no disproportionate impact on men.

COMMENT It was hoped that the ruling would establish clear guidance for dealing with cases of indirect discrimination, but unfortunately it has not. Note, the statutory age limits for claim-ing unfair dismissal and redundancy pay will be removed as a result of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 from 1 October 2006.


We refer to the Case Round-up of the Royal Veterinary College v Yerbury (EAT) (Personnel Today, 1 November 2005) and confirm that although the appeal was upheld and the matter referred to a reconstituted hearing, the EAT did not decide on the issues of the conduct/ capability of Ms Yerbury and the judgment at the employment tribunal was not altered.

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