The EAT has held that an employer's failure to allow an employee to have his appeal against the rejection of a grievance dealt with by a different manager could amount to a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence.
There is a well-established principle that damages for the manner of a dismissal cannot be awarded, the rationale being that these should be covered under the unfair dismissal basic and compensatory losses regime. The precise extent of this principle has been the subject of a number of cases over recent years.
In Monk v Cann Hall Primary School, the employee had made a claim for damages for personal injury against her former employer, a primary school (and the local authority) as a result of the circumstances in which she was made redundant after 11 years' service as an administrative assistant.
In June she was told that her post would be withdrawn with effect from 31 August and that her employment would end on that day on grounds of redundancy. She would normally have worked until the end of term (18 July) but, on 9 July, the school governors decided (for reasons which are not clear from the judgment and which were not explained to the claimant) to deny her access to the school with immediate effect. At 8.30am the next day, 10 July, the chairman of the governors went to the school and asked her to leave immediately. She was required to clear her desk and hand over her keys before being publicly escorted from the premises by the governor. She said she was humiliated by her treatment in front of teachers, children and parents – the implication being that she had committed an act of gross misconduct.
Her unfair dismissal and defamation claims were compromised but she subsequently claimed damages for psychiatric injury in the High Court. The judge struck out the claim because of the "manner of dismissal" principle. But the Court of Appeal allowed her to go ahead with her claim and to amend it to say that she was dismissed for redundancy on 31 August and not summarily on 10 July as originally alleged. This could prove to be valuable in helping to establish that the way she was treated was independent of the dismissal and she was not in effect bringing a claim that she had been dismissed unfairly.
This type of claim, whilst rare, may become more attractive, at least for lower paid employees, now that the cap on unfair dismissal compensation has changed to the lower of £74,200 and 52 weeks' pay.