In the case of Morales v Premier Fruits (Covent Garden) Ltd the Claimant, Mr Morales, was employed by Premier Fruits (Covent Garden) Ltd, whose business was hit heavily by the pandemic. In March 2020, the employer proposed a 25% pay cut for all staff and that they each take one week’s unpaid leave a month.
In May 2020, the Claimant’s trade union lodged a grievance on his behalf complaining that the pay cut and unpaid leave had caused him a detriment. Furthermore, a lack of PPE was posing a health and safety risk to staff.
Following a grievance process, the Claimant was subsequently dismissed in July 2020 on the grounds that he had refused to consent to the reduction in wages.
The Claimant lodged a claim for unfair dismissal against his former employers on the grounds that he had been dismissed for being a member of a trade union or for making use of trade union services (section 152 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992) and for making protected disclosures related to health and safety in accordance with the Employment Rights Act.
An employment tribunal may make an order for interim relief under section 161 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 in certain types of automatically unfair dismissal cases (predominantly whistleblowing claims and trade union membership claims). An employment tribunal can grant a claimant interim relief by ordering the employer to continue employing the employee (or if it is unwilling to employ them, to continue paying their salary) until the case is finally determined. The claimant applied to the employment tribunal for interim relief. The judge found that it was likely that the Claimant would be able to show that he was dismissed because he had sought the assistance of a trade union to bring a grievance and therefore made an order for reinstatement.
This case is interesting in the fact that it is one of the first we have seen where the employment tribunal scrutinises the actions of an employer in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies were scrambling to deal with the lockdown when it was announced back in March which unfortunately resulted in some quick decisions being taken by employers.
It is particularly rare for a Claimant to seek interim relief and even more so for the employment tribunal to grant it. An employer cannot treat an employee unfairly because of their participation or affiliation with a trade union.