Judge finds HR department failed to prove a business case for dismissal

Two office workers have been awarded almost £30,000 by an employment tribunal after a mix up with their HR department over annual leave entitlement.

The tribunal heard that the employees worked 12-hour shifts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Their contracts also stated that, if a bank holiday fell on a day they were supposed to be working, they would be required to work it or find cover.
In January 2015, the company updated their policies and new contracts were sent out to weekend workers in February 2016.

Both employees were sent their new contracts, with a note stating they contained no material changes. However the new contract included a reduction in the number of public holidays from eight days to five, because the days were now being pro-rated.
Both employees refused to sign their new contracts and were eventually invited to a consultation meeting to discuss the matter but were warned beforehand that one course of action the company might take was to dismiss them under their current contracts and offer to re-hire them under the new contracts. They were the only two not to accept the reduction in holiday and be dismissed.

Allowing the claims for unfair dismissal, the tribunal determined that the employer had failed to prove that its rationale given for dismissing the pair and its business case had not been properly established.

They were ordered to pay one employee £12,611.11 and the other £17,217.46. Prior to starting a process of unilateral contract change it is vitally important that businesses establish sound business reasons in order to justify the necessary change.

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