A Disabled Employee Made Redundant Following Unfair Selection Process Wins His Case (Mr S Putt v Goodfish Ltd)

In the case of Mr S Putt v Goodfish Ltd, the employer failed to follow a fair selection process before making Mr Putt redundant.

The Facts in Mr S Putt v Goodfish Ltd

Mr S Putt (the “Claimant”) commenced employment with Goodfish Ltd (the “Respondent”) on 1 June 2015 as a tooling and maintenance supervisor. Later, he was promoted to the role of process, tooling and maintenance manager. He was aged 56 when he started work for the Respondent.

The Claimant believed from the outset that Greg McDonald (“GM”), CEO, had promised him the role of maintenance manager when BH, who was 67 at the time, retired from the role (this assumption was contested by the Respondent).

The Claimant alleged that during the course of his employment he:

  • had been discriminated against because of his disability;
  • had been discriminated against because of his age;
  • had not been offered reasonable adjustments.

In 2018 the Respondent appointed an apprentice maintenance engineer (“RH”). In July 2019 the Claimant was diagnosed with melanoma cancer. He had an operation to remove it from his ear and neck in September and returned to work after 7 weeks.

The Claimant was placed on Furlough, in March 2020, due to the Covid 19 pandemic. In January 2021, vulnerable people were again advised to shield, which still applied to the Claimant.  The Respondent was seeing a downturn in business due to the pandemic and lockdown and was suffering financially. This called for looking at reducing staff to stay viable.

On 2 February 2021, the Claimant met with managers and was told that his role had been provisionally selected for redundancy. He was invited to attend a consultation meeting on 4 February 2021. On the same day the maintenance engineer, RH, who qualified in August 2020 resigned.

The Respondent persuaded RH, on 5 February 2021, to stay on by offering him the maintenance manager job. This amounted to a promotion and an increase in his salary of around £7,000 on top of his current salary. He formally began the job on 1 April 2021

On 22 February 2021, the Claimant attended a consultation meeting accompanied by his partner and a work colleague.  The Respondent set out the rationale for the redundancy, why the Claimant’s role had been selected, whether or not a pool should be used, whether he could perform some of the roles of others and also whether he had been promised the maintenance manager role and lastly if he should remain on furlough longer.

The Respondent offered the Claimant alternative employment, on 23 February 2021, as an injection moulding operative. This was a lower-level role on approximately half his hourly rate.

On 25 February 2021, a second consultation meeting took place. The Claimant was told that the maintenance engineer had been promoted to the maintenance manager and it was implied this happened several months ago before the redundancy consultation process had started (which turned out to be untrue).  The Claimant requested details of this appointment but received none. After a short break, the Respondent informed the Claimant was to be made redundant. However, the offer of alternative employment remained open until 5 March 2021.

On 12 March 2021, the Claimant rejected the offer of alternative employment stating his reasons as:

  1. the low level of pay;
  2. shift work;
  3. status;
  4. it not matching his skills.

The Respondent confirmed that, on 15 March 2021, the Claimant’s employment would end on 16 April 2021.  On the same day, the Respondent announced that a maintenance engineering apprentice had been appointed and was due to start work that day.

On 19 March 2021, the Claimant appealed to GM (CEO) against the decision to make him redundant and a remote hearing later took place. Ultimately, his appeal was rejected, his employment ended and he was made redundant.

The Decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal found that the Claimant had been unfairly dismissed and that there was a 50% chance he would have been retained in a Maintenance Engineer role on a reduced salary of £27,000.  The tribunal also found that the decision to make him redundant was discrimination arising from his disability. The other claims he raised of disability, age discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments and unpaid holiday were not upheld.

The tribunal, when looking at the evidence, drew certain adverse inferences. The Claimant’s selection for redundancy was seen as unfavourable treatment, which related to his absence, arose from his disability. He had been misinformed about the appointment of RH into the maintenance manager role. This meant the maintenance engineer role was vacant and suitable alternative employment.

In addition, the day the Claimant’s employment ended, another job was filled as a maintenance engineering apprentice. Although the tribunal felt he may not have accepted being on a low salary, it would still have constituted alternative employment.

Our Lawyers View

Steve Norton, lawyer at Redmans, says: In this case, the employer had clearly become impatient with the employee in accommodating his needs to perform his job because of cancer and his treatment. There was a move to target him for redundancy. Thus, the level of predetermination in the selection process in withholding key information on suitable alternative jobs, makes it unfair and tainted with discrimination, in this disability discrimination case.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal can be found here