Personality clash dismissal permitted

In most cases, dismissal of an employee without following any sort of formal procedure would lead to the conclusion that the dismissal was unfair. However, in the unusual case of Gallacher v Abellio Scotrail Ltd the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) agreed with the Employment Tribunal’s (ET) decision that dismissal without following a procedure was within the range of reasonable responses for the employer.

In this case, a personality clash between the claimant and her manager meant that neither party had any trust and confidence in the other. The claimant’s continued good working relationship with her manager was critical during what was a difficult period for the employer’s business, and after considering the facts of the case, the tribunal found not only that a procedure would not have served any useful purpose but that it would have actually worsened the situation. The evidence showed that the claimant recognised the breakdown in relations and had no interest in repairing it. The tribunal concluded that where following procedures could reasonably be considered futile, the employer can dispense with them. The claimant appealed this finding but the EAT upheld the decision.

This is certainly a rare outcome, and we would be very reluctant to advise an employer to forgo a proper disciplinary process, even where it seems like the relationship with the employee is irreparable. We consider it best practice to have a disciplinary policy on which all managers and senior personnel are trained. At the very least, employers should follow the ACAS Code of Practice. We are on hand to guide you through performance management and disciplinary processes.