A bizarre employment related story hit the headlines last week. A woman launched an employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal after leaving her job at a dental practice which was owned and managed by her husband.
The story becomes even stranger in that the pair claim that they remain “happily married” despite the legal action and the obvious costs that have been incurred with the case running to an actual Tribunal.
The facts of the case seem to be that Mrs Hutcheson quit her job after some discussions around what had been agreed in terms of the amount of pay she would receive. Mrs Hutcheson started working at the practice on a voluntary basis in 2008 with an agreement that she would become a paid member of staff after one year. Mrs Hutcheson claimed that this agreement had included a promise that she would earn £3,000 a month after the first twelve months. This did not materialise, with her being taken on as an employee and paid £1,500 a month.
Mr Hutcheson is said to have thought the figure was “excessive” and denied that any agreement had been entered into.
The whole sorry story ended with the employment judge dismissing the case as Mrs Hutcheson had not worked for the company long enough to raise the claim in the first place. As she had only worked in an employee capacity for 10 months she was not entitled to claim unfair dismissal in any event.
Some wise words of advice were given in the written judgement of employment judge Reg Christie, according to media coverage, which should be borne in mind:-
“I accept that such informality in a congenial domestic relationship is perfectly normal and understandable – but it does not afford a relaxation of the normal legal requirements for the formation of legally binding obligations.”