Capability dismissal leads to award of £19,000

A former airport logistics agent for British Airways who was dismissed after an illness affecting his eyes, has won an unfair dismissal claim at an employment tribunal and been awarded more than £19,000.

The employees’ role included driving duties in the vicinity of aircraft. He was dismissed due to his inability to carry out his role after suffering back, knee and eye injuries. However BA did not give the employee “fair or proper warning” that he may be dismissed, and did not act reasonably in treating incapacity as sufficient reason for his dismissal within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The history of this case follows a pattern that many employers would take – regular meetings, occupational health reviews and medical reports from Doctors and consultants. The issue, however, is that at no point in the communication process between BA and the employee, did BA inform the employee that dismissal might be a possible outcome of the various review meetings and neither did the employer genuinely seek to make adjustments to support the employee’s return to another or different role.

The Judge in this case said that BA had a “closed mind” and the employee was awarded £19,074.88, composed of a £10,687.50 basic award, compensatory award of £17,510.50, and £400 for his loss of statutory rights.

Employers must fully consider whether an employee can be given adjusted duties or alternative duties as an alternative to dismissal and follow absence procedures carefully and, before any decision to dismiss for capability, check that they have considered all medical evidence, whether any reasonable adjustments can be made to enable the employee to return to the workplace, and whether there are any alternatives before making any decision to dismiss. Dismissal should always be the last resort.

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