The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled in a recent case that a failure to conduct a grievance process reasonably and in accordance with the written grievance procedure can constitute a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence in the contract of employment.
In the case of Blackburn v Aldi Stores Ltd UKEAT/0185/12/JOJ Mr Blackburn submitted a grievance but had this grievance rejected at the first stage. He appealed the outcome of his grievance but was unhappy when the grievance appeal was heard by the same manager who had rejected the original grievance, in contravention of the written grievance policy that Aldi were supposed to follow. The appeal against his grievance outcome was also rejected and Mr Blackburn resigned and claimed constructive unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal.
The matter came before the Employment Tribunal earlier this year. At the hearing Mr Blackburn attempted to amend his claim to include a claim for breach of the express terms of his contract of employment as well as the initially-pleaded breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. However, the Employment Tribunal rejected his application to amend and also rejected his claim for constructive dismissal, holding that a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence was not relevant in the circumstances and that Mr Blackburn wasn’t entitled to rely on a breach of an express term of his contract of employment. Mr Blackburn appealed against this decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal heard Mr Blackburn’s appeal in July and upheld his appeal against the Employment Tribunal’s decision. The EAT held that the Tribunal was required to deal with how the appeal procedure had been handled and that Mr Blackburn’s employer’s actions could clearly constitute a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence as well as a breach of an express term.