Dismissal of employee who raised frivolous and vexatious grievances – pending 2024 Court of Appeal case

19th December 2023

Associate, Claire Treacy looks into the case of Mr Hope v British Medical Association.

Employers have a responsibility to manage employees who raise multiple grievances during the course of their employment. There can be many reasons as to why grievances are raised, for example to slow down or disrupt disciplinary proceedings. However, there can be occasions where employees raise multiple grievance or complaints, which can become disruptive to the workplace and therefore need to be closely managed by the employer.

In 2024, there will be a hearing in the Court of Appeal of Hope v British Medical Association, following this case already having been heard by the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Mr Hope was a serial grievance raiser and would often raise vexatious grievances. During his employment, Mr Hope brought seven grievances against senior managers but refused to progress with any formal stage relating to the grievances, or withdraw them. Further, Mr Hope failed to attend a grievance hearing to address his complaints, resulting in it proceeding in his absence. The result of the process was that none of the grievances raised were upheld.

Due to Mr Hope’s conduct throughout the grievance process, he was dismissed for gross misconduct on the basis he had brought a number of vexatious and frivolous grievances and had refused to comply with a reasonable management instruction to attend the grievance investigation meeting. Subsequently, Mr Hope brought a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal.

The Employment Tribunal found that the dismissal was fair. Mr Hope appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the basis that the Employment Tribunal had failed to consider whether the conduct relied upon was capable of amounting to gross misconduct and that the findings were perverse.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the appeal and upheld the Employment Tribunal’s original decision, specifically that the dismissal was fair in all of the circumstances, and that it was satisfied that the employer had acted reasonably in treating the reason for dismissal (namely Mr Hope’s conduct) as being a sufficient reason to dismiss.

This case highlights that it may, in certain circumstances, be fair to dismiss an employee who brings repeated, frivolous and vexatious grievances and fails to engage properly and appropriately with any process, despite receiving clear management instructions to do so. Employers should always exercise caution in these circumstances as each case will be fact specific.

However, Mr Hope has continued with the appeal process and so it will be heard by the Court of Appeal in 2024, when there will  no doubt be further clarity as to how employers should deal with employees who raise multiple grievances in such a manner.

If you would like more information for assisting and providing advice on grievances, please contact Claire Treacy in our Employment team.

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