In the case of Lovingangels Care Ltd v Mhindurwa, the employment appeal tribunal recently confirmed a decision by an employment tribunal that deemed it unfair for an employer to dismiss an employee due to redundancy rather than opting for furlough instead.
Here are the essential details: Ms Mhindurwa was employed by Lovingangels Care Limited as a live-in caregiver. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her position faced the risk of redundancy as the person she was caring for had to be hospitalised. Normally, Ms Mhindurwa would have been assigned to another client, but due to pandemic-related restrictions, this was not possible.
During the redundancy consultation, Ms Mhindurwa requested to be placed on furlough rather than being made redundant. However, her employer declined her request and proceeded with the dismissal, citing redundancy as the reason.
Subsequently, Ms Mhindurwa filed an unfair dismissal claim against her former employer at the employment tribunal. She argued that her employer should have considered furlough as a viable alternative to redundancy.
The tribunal ruled in favour of Ms Mhindurwa, stating that her employer should have, at the very least, contemplated placing her on furlough until they could determine whether the situation would improve. The tribunal highlighted that the government‘s job retention scheme was introduced to prevent employee dismissals during the pandemic, and it would have been reasonable for Ms Mhindurwa’s employer to utilise this scheme instead of opting for redundancy.
Lovingangels Care Limited appealed the tribunal‘s decision, but the employment appeal tribunal upheld the original ruling, determining that there were no legal errors in the tribunal’s judgment.
This case reinforces the principle that employers must consider viable alternatives to dismissal as part of a fair redundancy process. Typically, a suitable alternative would involve offering a different role within the organisation. However, during the pandemic, employers were also expected to explore the option of placing employees on furlough instead of making them redundant.
While this case may not be groundbreaking, it is intriguing as it sheds light on how the pandemic influenced decision-making in the workplace.
If you believe you have been unfairly dismissed or require guidance on an employment dispute, it is advisable to seek legal assistance.