Christmas overtime refusal leads to dismissal

employment law, ovetime, employers, employee

Tribunal rules on overtime working. Credit: Ben Harris

If you want to force your workers to do overtime over Christmas, the Employment Tribunal supports you…¬†

A tribunal in November 2016 ruled that an employer fairly dismissed a worker when her refusal to do overtime over the Christmas period could have sparked a staff rebellion.

In Edwards v Bramble Foods Ltd ET/2602015, the Employment Tribunal heard that employee, Mrs. Edwards, refused Saturday work when the rest of the workforce agreed. The small food company, the court’s respondent, has a busy period producing Christmas hampers between September and November.

Informal chats did not work

The tribunal claimant, Mrs. Edwards, insisted she wanted her Saturday mornings with her husband despite a clause in her employment contract requiring extra hours when necessary. ‘Informal chats’ with her by her managers, where they pleaded with her that her refusal would load additional work on others, failed to convince her.

Not content with rejecting reasonable arguments from management, Mrs. Edwards sought to bolster her case by mocking colleagues, who had agreed to work the overtime. She remarked to colleagues that she would lying in on Saturdays.

Yet, her employers feared that she could affect their ability to fulfil their orders. The tribunal agreed with the employers that other workers could withdraw their overtime agreement if Mrs. Edwards was excused.

Dismissal in range of reasonable responses

The ruling of the Employment Judge was: “The consequences for the respondent had the claimant not been dismissed might have been disastrous. The respondent had been extraordinarily patient…Dismissal was unarguably within the range of reasonable responses to a very difficult situation.”

That is the key – range of reasonable responses. After a reasonable investigation and a fair disciplinary hearing, the employer’s response to a finding of misconduct, must be within the range of reasonable responses. This means some employers may choose not to dismiss, where they could do so lawfully, but some employers go ahead and dismiss. Both decisions are lawful, if they in the range of reasonable responses.

The consequences of Christmas can lead to problems for employer and employee. So be wise men and women and get seasonal advice from Sharma Solicitors on 0345 430 0145 (note new number).

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