Norris v Lambert (t/a Black Bull Inn)
Statutory dispute resolution procedures and the compensation uplift
Since 1 October 2004, employers and employees have had to follow the statutory dispute resolution procedures. In disciplinary cases this involves giving the employee a written statement of grounds for dismissal or relevant disciplinary action (Step 1), setting up a meeting to discuss the issue (Step 2) and informing the employee of the decision and their right of appeal (Step 3). If an employer fails to follow the procedure and the employee subsequently brings a successful tribunal claim, the tribunal must uplift the employee’s award by 10% and may, if it considers it just and equitable to do so, increase it by up to 50%. This is one of the first reported cases dealing with the amount of the uplift that should be awarded.
Mr Norris and Ms Robertson, both homosexuals, worked for Mr and Mrs Lambert, the proprietors of the Black Bull Inn. Both employees suffered harassment from the Lamberts and other staff on account of their sexuality. On one occasion there was an altercation between Robertson and Mrs Lambert about the amount of Robertson’s wages. It resulted in Mrs Lambert assaulting Robertson and a lot of unpleasant language was exchanged between them.
Norris overheard the incident and subsequently made known his views about how Mrs Lambert had just treated Robertson. This resulted in Mr Lambert telling Norris that if he didn’t like it he could leave. Norris was then dismissed by being marched out of the kitchen by Mr Lambert and told, using expletive and homophobic language, not to come back.
There was no attempt to put the reason for dismissal in writing, conduct any form of meeting about it, or offer any opportunity to appeal.
Robertson brought a number of claims, including unfair constructive dismissal and discrimination on grounds of sexuality. Norris brought claims for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, harassment on grounds of sexuality, unlawful deductions from wages and accrued holiday pay.
The tribunal awarded the maximum 50% uplift on compensation for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and sexual orientation harassment.
- Norris’s treatment amounted to a “complete failure” by the employer to follow the statutory dismissal procedure. There was no attempt to set out the reason for dismissal in writing, conduct any form of meeting, or offer an appeal.
- There was “no attempt” to provide the employees with written terms of employment pursuant to sections 1 to 4 of Employment Rights Act 1996. The tribunal awarded the maximum of four weeks’ pay to both claimants.
What you should do
- Be aware that the uplift does not only apply to claims for unfair dismissal. Other awards attracting the uplift include discrimination, unlawful deduction of wages, unpaid holiday and notice pay. So breaching the statutory procedures can have serious financial consequences.
- Make sure all staff get written state-ments of terms and conditions of employment within two months of starting. As this case illustrates, tribunals have the power to penalise employers who breach this legal requirement in certain cases. The amount of the award must be two weeks’ pay, but if the tribunal considers it just and equitable it can also be increased to four weeks’ pay.