EAT agrees dismissal for raising numerous vexatious and frivolous grievances was fair

Tuesday 11th January 2022

In Hope v British Medical Association, the EAT upheld an ET’s decision that a dismissal for raising numerous vexatious and frivolous grievances was fair.

Mr Hope was employed by the BMA as a Senior Policy Advisor from June 2014 until his dismissal in May 2019.   Mr Hope raised numerous grievances over a prolonged period about a range of matters, such as not being invited to meetings which he considered he should be attending. The grievances could not be addressed informally by Mr Hope’s line manager, in part because they concerned more senior managers over which he did not have authority. Mr Hope refused to progress any of the grievances to the formal stage of the BMA’s procedure or withdraw them, but instead sought to retain the ability to progress them at any time.

Eventually the BMA held a grievance meeting which Mr Hope refused to attend. The BMA found that the repeated instigation of the grievance process without following through amounted to an abuse of process and the grievances were dismissed. Following disciplinary action Mr Hope was dismissed for gross misconduct. Mr Hope had refused to comply with what the BMA considered to be a reasonable management instruction to attend the meeting and his numerous grievances were found to have been vexatious and frivolous. The BMA also considered there had been a fundamental breakdown of the working relationship between Mr Hope and senior management. The ET found that Mr Hope’s dismissal was fair, holding that the BMA had been entitled to find that his behaviour constituted gross misconduct.

On appeal, Mr Hope argued that the ET had failed to consider whether his conduct was contractually capable of amounting to gross misconduct as either “a deliberate and wilful contradiction of the contractual terms” or “gross negligence”. He also submitted that the ETs findings were perverse.

The EAT held that, when evaluating whether a dismissal is fair or unfair, all the circumstances should be considered. This might include the fact that the conduct relied on involved a breach of contract amounting to gross misconduct. However, the BMA had not sought to rely on any act stipulated by contract as gross misconduct and, as it was not a wrongful dismissal claim, no such contractual analysis was required. The ET had been entitled to find that in dismissing Mr Hope, the BMA had acted reasonably in all the circumstances.

All information in this update is intended for general guidance only and is not intended to be comprehensive, or to provide legal advice.