Dismissal unfair despite no chance of compensation

An employee was entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal even where there was no reasonable prospect of recovering any compensation, according to an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruling in the case of Evans v London Borough of Brent.

Dr Evans was– a deputy head teacher involved in financial mismanagement which resulted in himself and another person receiving unauthorised overpayments. He had been dismissed by his employers on grounds of gross misconduct.

A claim for unfair dismissal submitted to the Employment Tribunal (ET) was stayed pending the outcome of High Court proceedings that the school had initiated against Dr Evans. The outcome of the High Court action was that Dr Evans was ordered to repay £46,000 to his employer, with an additional £200,000 held to be irrecoverable due to limitation issues.

Dr Evans’ claim in the ET resumed but was subsequently struck out despite there being a finding that unfair dismissal was a reasonable possibility. The reason was that even if the dismissal was unfair, to award compensation to Dr Evans would not be just and equitable in light of the irrecoverable overpayments.

The EAT upheld Dr Evans’ appeal and found that the ET had failed to acknowledge the potential value of a mere finding of unfair dismissal, even without a financial award. It could not be said that such a finding would be of no value, or that it is not in the interests of justice to hold an employer to account for procedural unfairness in deciding to dismiss a long-serving employee, even if that cannot lead to any financial award.