It has not always been clear where an employer stands if it is at fault for an employee's illness and then wants to dismiss him or her. Is it possible to dismiss fairly in these circumstances? This issue was most recently considered in a Court of Appeal decision where the employee was off sick with a stress-related illness which the tribunal concluded had been caused by the employer's poor treatment of her. The employer took the decision to dismiss her after it had received medical evidence that showed she would never be able to return to work.

The Court of Appeal said that there was no reason why such a dismissal could not be fair. The degree of the employer's culpability for the underlying illness is one factor to consider, but it does not mean it can never be fair to dismiss, though in some circumstances the employer might be expected to allow more time for the employee to get better than would otherwise be the case. That is not of course the end of the matter because, if the employer is at fault, it is still possible for the employee to bring a negligence action, regardless of the outcome of the unfair dismissal claim.

For the full decision (McAdie v Royal Bank of Scotland) click here.