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Montanaro v Lansafe Ltd ET/2203148/2020 – Employee who remained in Italy at outbreak of pandemic was automatically unfairly dismissed

Published: 16 August 2021
Time to read: 2 mins

Under s.100(1)(e) Employment Rights Act 1996, an employee is automatically unfairly dismissed if the principal reason (if more than one) for their dismissal is that, in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, they took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect themselves or others from the danger.

Mr Montanaro (the employee) was employed by Lansafe Ltd (the employer). His employment began on 17 February 2020 and he was employed to provide services to the employer’s client. The employee had arranged to take a holiday for his sister’s wedding in Italy on 09 and 10 March. Italy went into lockdown on 09 March and UK government guidance was 14 days’ isolation on return from Italy.  The following day (10 March), the employee was told to keep his mobile and laptop on and await instructions. On 11 March, the employer sent a letter to the employee’s London address (despite knowing he was in Italy) dismissing the employee with effect from 06 March. The reason for dismissal was the employee’s failure to follow company procedures and taking unauthorised leave. The employee did not hear from the employer and followed instructions from the employer’s client to continue working remotely. The employee continued to send information to the employer about travel restrictions in Italy. On 01 April, the employer sent the employee’s P45 and final payslip by email. The employee successfully claimed automatic unfair dismissal under section 100(1)(e) Employment Rights Act 1996.

When considering whether to dismiss an employee, employers must make sure to follow the correct procedure. In Montanaro, the employer failed to communicate effectively with the employee and dismissal took place without a proper investigation or disciplinary hearing. It is not enough for an employer to simply notify the employee in writing.

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