In our Employment Law 2021 – Look Ahead article we indicated that 2021 might see more tribunal claims in relation to dismissals and other workplace disputes arising out of factual situations unique to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on everyday work practices. Sure enough, an employment tribunal has recently determined that the dismissal of a delivery driver who refused to wear his face mask while in the cab of his vehicle was fair.
The reasons for the decision included:
- Kent Foods’ staff handbook required employees to act courteously towards clients and to take all reasonable steps to safeguard their own and others’ health and safety while at work
- The requirement to wear a face mask was a requirement of one of Kent Foods’ clients and Mr Kubilius refused to do so, despite being asked by two different employees of the client. The client reported the incident to Kent Foods.
- Kent Foods carried out an investigation and invited Mr Kubilius to a disciplinary hearing. Kent Foods summarily dismissed Mr Kubilius on grounds that he had breached the requirement to maintain good relationships with clients and failed to cooperate with others to ensure a safe working environment.
- The tribunal found that Kent Foods had a genuine belief that Mr Kubilius was guilty of misconduct after carrying out a reasonable investigation into the facts, and that Kent Foods had acted reasonably in treating the alleged misconduct as a reason for dismissal. A warning might have been issued, however the tribunal found that dismissal was also within the range of reasonable responses.
This case is a reminder that despite the new and sometimes strange situations businesses may find themselves dealing with, the usual employment law principles still apply. No employment laws or regulations have been displaced by any of the measures introduced to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you would like any further information on this case and its implications, please do not hesitate to get in touch.