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Automatic unfair dismissal can lead to an employer being ordered to continue paying a former employee’s wages

Gateley Legal

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Issue

Interim relief orders require the employer to continue to pay the employee pending the outcome of the full hearing. An application for this can only be made where it is alleged that the dismissal was due to protected grounds that would lead to a finding of automatic unfair dismissal.  The case of Mr A Montes Morales v Premier Fruits (Covent Garden) Limited highlights how responses to the pandemic may lead to more of these types of claim.  

Facts

Mr Morales had been employed at a fruit and veg market since August 2018. The business was hit heavily by the pandemic and in March 2020 all staff were asked to accept a 25% pay cut and take one week's unpaid leave a month. Mr Morales contacted his trade union who lodged a grievance on his behalf that the wage reductions had caused him detriment and that the health and safety of staff was being endangered by a lack of PPE. A grievance meeting followed after which he was dismissed. 

Decision

Mr Morales brought proceedings for automatic unfair dismissal and his application for interim relief was granted. Despite the employer alleging he was dismissed for refusing the pay cut it was held that it was ‘likely’ that Mr Morales would be able to show that he was dismissed because he had sought the assistance of a trade union to bring a grievance. It took into account comments recorded at a meeting with other employees that showed the manager was opposed to any trade union involvement.

Key point

It is widely expected that Employment Tribunals will face an increase in interim relief applications arising from concerns raised from those returning to work after lockdown. It is important that claimants consider this option quickly though as applications have to be made within seven days from the date of the dismissal. Given the current delays in the employment tribunal system, an order for interim relief could prove to be a substantial benefit for a dismissed employee and a costly mistake for an employer. 

More information

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