Grounds for Dismissal: ‘Pulling a Sickie’

18th March 2016

Some workers may consider ‘pulling a sickie’ as not a particularly serious occurrence. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) however, recently emphasised that such a dishonest act can amount to gross misconduct; giving grounds for dismissal.

In the case of Metroline West v Ajaj (Unfair Dismissal) [2015], the employee was a bus driver who injured himself in the workplace. He went on sick leave claiming that he was incapable of doing his job. The employer suspected that the employee had staged the accident or exaggerated his injuries and placed him under covert surveillance.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) upheld his complaints of unfair and wrongful dismissal. Although the ET accepted that he exaggerated his injuries and was partly responsible for his own dismissal, there was no evidence that he was capable of sitting for long periods in order to do his job.

On appeal, the EAT disagreed with the Employment Tribunal. It held that an employee who ‘pulls a sickie’ is dishonest and in fundamental breach of the trust and confidence which lies at the heart of any employment relationship. The principal reason for such a dismissal was the employees conduct and not his capability.

As the EAT reminds us in this case, there is a well-established test for dismissal based on legislation and case law. Following such clearly documented steps will assist employers in negating any potential claims and ensures the correct process is followed.