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Employment Law Case Update: Edwards v Bramble Foods Ltd

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The Employment Tribunal held that an employer had fairly dismissed an employee because she had refused to do overtime in the run up to Christmas and her protests at being asked to do extra hours threatened to disrupt the business.

Bramble Foods contracts of employment included a clause requiring employees to work extra hours when and if the business required. The company’s busiest period was the eight weeks from mid September as it produced gifts and hampers for Christmas.

The company decided to impose formal overtime arrangements, asking employees to choose between four and eight Saturday mornings they could work in September and October.

Most of the workforce had no issues with this and agreed to work some Saturdays, Mrs Edwards refused to work.

The company held a number of informal conversations with Mrs Edwards to explain that sharing the workload fairly would enable the company to meet the demands of the Christmas period.

Mrs Edwards continued to refuse stating that she spent the Saturday mornings with her husband.

The company dismissed Mrs Edwards following a number of complaints from colleagues about her behaviour. The complaints included statements that she had mocked those who had agreed to work on Saturdays as overtime by boasting that she would have a lie in.

The company cited a key reason for her dismissal to be their belief that a number of other employees would withdraw their agreement to work overtime if they excused Mrs Edwards.

The company was convinced that her behaviour was having an adverse effect on the workforce and that it saw her actions as a growing threat to its ability to fulfil orders. Mrs Edwards claimed unfair dismissal.

Whilst the tribunal accepted that there were a number of minor flaws in the company’s procedure, they had no doubt that the dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses; it was reasonable for the company to require Mrs Edwards to do some overtime and she had no legitimate reason for refusing.

The tribunal held that the consequences for the employer of not dismissing her could have been “disastrous”. This shows employers that they do have the authority to require employees to work overtime but they must take legitimate reasons for refusal into account if required.

This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 17/11/2016.  If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email events@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.