McAdie v Royal Bank of Scotland (Court of Appeal)

After working for the Royal Bank of Scotland for 20 years Mrs McAdie was transferred to a different branch on a temporary basis in the summer of 2003. She raised a grievance about the move and also said that her manager who heard the grievance spoke to her in an inappropriately authoritarian and unsympathetic manner. She subsequently went off sick in September 2003 and complained to her manager about his “extremely intimidating and bullying” manner. He took over a month to respond and she submitted a grievance about both her transfer and her manager’s conduct.

Despite an apology from her manager Mrs McAdie was not satisfied with the handling of her grievance and took it to Stage 2 of the Bank’s procedure. Upon her being asked at this stage what she would regard as a suitable resolution to the matter she stated that she felt that the only reasonable solution was for her to leave the Bank and receive compensation. Mrs McAdie was assured of her value to the Bank and the Bank offered Mrs McAdie a return to different roles in a location of her choice.

In June 2004 Mrs McAdie had still not returned to work and the Bank's long term sickness procedure was commenced. The Bank still wanted Mrs McAdie to return to work and Mrs McAdie made it clear that she wanted to pursue her grievance to Stage 3 of the Bank’s procedure.

An occupational health report in November 2004 concluded that further medical treatment was unlikely to resolve the situation and unless she could be redeployed Mrs McAdie would not return to work in the foreseeable future. The Bank then proceeded to dismiss Mrs McAdie giving her 12 weeks notice. The ground for dismissal was ill health. On appeal Mrs McAdie made it clear that she did not want to return to work and she felt that she no longer had any trust or confidence in the Bank. She again maintained that she should have compensation for loss of employment and also asked for a reference.

The Employment Tribunal found that Mrs McAdie had been unfairly dismissed as the Bank had been responsible for her ill health and subsequent events and “no reasonable employer would have dismissed in these circumstances because no reasonable employer would have found themselves in these circumstances”. This decision was dismissed on appeal. The Employment Appeal Tribunal said that the question the Employment Tribunal should have asked was “was it reasonable for the Bank to dismiss Mrs McAdie….in the circumstances as they then were, including the fact that their mishandling of the situation had led to her illness?” In other words, not to focus on why the situation had arisen but what was reasonable once it had arisen.

Medical evidence showed that Mrs McAdie was unfit for work and there was no prospect of recovery. In addition, Mrs McAdie had acknowledged this and said that she wanted her employment to be terminated, albeit with compensation. While there was an onus the Bank to make efforts to find alternative employment, especially in view of the cause of her illness, there was no alternative to dismissal.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s reasoning because despite the fact that the Bank had caused the illness this did not preclude it from dismissing the employee. The Court of Appeal fully agreed with the reasoning of the Employment Appeal Tribunal which included the observation that an employer should normally be expected to “go the extra mile in finding alternative employment for such an employee, or to put up with a longer period of sickness absence than would otherwise be reasonable”. This point should certainly be borne in mind in situations where an employee is still willing to try and work for the employer, which was not the case with Mrs McAdie who said she could not return which left the Bank with no alternative but to dismiss her.