The EAT has recently confirmed that the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures does not apply where a dismissal has been purely for health reasons.
The ACAS Code says that it applies to dismissals for conduct of performance and not to redundancy or the end of fixed term contracts. However, it does not mention dismissal for other reasons, such as ill health. It is therefore a benefit that we now have some clarity over the matter.
The claimant in this case, Mr Holmes, had brought a claim for unfair dismissal against Qinetiq relating to his recent ill health dismissal. Qinetiq accepted that he had been unfairly dismissed, because they had not obtained an up to date medical opinion.
However, the Tribunal did not award any statutory uplift for failure to follow the ACAS Code. Qinetiq’s position, with which the EAT agreed, was that the ACAS Code did not apply as the dismissal had not been due to any culpability on the part of Mr Holmes. For instance, the absences were not for any spurious reason and were not excessive or in breach of any policies. These matters could have given rise to disciplinary sanctions, but this was purely a genuine ill health case, so could not.
What is less clear after this case is whether other types of dismissal are affected by the Code. For instance, SOSR dismissals for “some other substantial reason” where there may be some element of culpability, and some element of business need, for instance where there is an irretrievable breakdown in the working relationship.
Fortunately, Phoenix House has come hot on the heels of this case, resolving the issue in terms of breakdowns of the working relationship at least.