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Dismissal communicated via a third party

In Robinson v Bowskill the EAT has confirmed that a dismissal can be communicated through a third party, in this case a solicitor.

The claimant worked as an administrator in a GP practice for over 40 years. She went off sick with stress after an investigation began into alleged serious misconduct. In her absence, and without a disciplinary hearing, she was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct:

  • her solicitor was informed by e-mail on 6th July 2011;
  • the solicitor informed the claimant of the decision by phone the next day, 7th July;
  • the claimant received a letter from the employer informing her of her dismissal on 8th July.

The claimant’s solicitor presented unfair dismissal and disability discrimination claims on 7th October. The employer claimed that these had been presented one day late.

The EAT considered the Supreme Court’s decision in Gisda Cyf v Barratt, that dismissal is effective when it is communicated to an employee or they have a reasonable opportunity to know of it. It decided that communication of dismissal through a third party can meet this test. Therefore, the effective date of termination was 7th July and the claims had been presented out of time.

The EAT decided that the disability discrimination claim could, however, proceed on the basis that it was just and equitable to extend time. The solicitor’s mistake in lodging the claim late should not to be held against the claimant when deciding whether or not to extend the 3 month time limit.

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