Cadent Gas Ltd v Singh UKEAT/0024/19
Mr Singh was a gas engineer and had 29 years' service with a clear disciplinary record. He was also a health and safety representative. He was called out to a gas leak at 1am. He responded, even though he had worked more than his contracted hours, had not eaten since the previous morning and had only had two hours' sleep. He stopped for some food on his way to the job and arrived one minute over the required response time of one hour. Mr Singh was unable to gain access to the site and carried out an inspection before going home. Mr Huckerby, a manager with whom Mr Singh had had difficulties in the past relating to his trade union activities, noticed and disciplinary proceedings for gross misconduct were commenced, which led to Mr Singh being dismissed without notice. Mr Huckerby was central to the disciplinary proceedings and said that he wanted to keep Mr Singh's union activities "on the radar". He also gave false information to HR and the dismissing officer. Mr Singh claimed automatic unfair dismissal on the ground of his union activities.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the dismissal was automatically unfair because of Mr Singh's union activities. Mr Huckerby's leading role in the process meant that his knowledge and motivation could be attributed to his employer, even though he had not made the decision to dismiss.
Since the EAT's decision in this case, we have had the Supreme Court's judgment in Royal Mail Group Ltd v Jhuti, which we reported in last month's digest. In that case, the Supreme Court held that where the real reason for a dismissal is hidden from the decision-maker behind an invented reason, the court must penetrate through the invention and not allow it to infect its own decision. In such a situation, the reason for the dismissal is the hidden reason rather than the invented reason. The Supreme Court commented that cases like this are likely to be rare so it is interesting that we are already starting to see them.