• The issue of employees raising multiple grievances and whether it is possible to take action was considered in the case of Hope-v-British Medical Association (the BMA).  In this case, the employee concerned was dismissed after raising multiple complaints.  It was ultimately decided his conduct was not gross misconduct but that it was still fair to dismiss him.

    Hope v British Medical Association: the case

    The background was that the claimant who was employed by the BMA as a Senior Policy Advisor brought a number of informal grievances but refused to either withdraw or pursue them further.  He was invited to attend a formal grievance meeting to discuss these grievances but did not attend. The conclusion was reached that the claimant’s grievances had been frivolous and vexatious, and all his grievances were dismissed. Following this outcome, a disciplinary process was initiated, and he was invited to a disciplinary hearing. He was ultimately dismissed for gross misconduct in connection with the grievances he brought and for failing to follow management instructions.

    The claimant appealed his dismissal but was unsuccessful and subsequently he brought an unfair dismissal claim to the Employment Tribunal (ET). The ET held that this was a fair dismissal.

    The claimant appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on the basis that the ET had incorrectly held that his conduct was gross misconduct and that the findings of the ET were perverse. The EAT concluded the claimant’s conduct did not amount to gross misconduct but nonetheless accepted it was reasonable to dismiss Mr Hope and that the BMA had a sufficient reason to do so.

    In reaching its conclusion the EAT used the approach established in JJ Food Service v Kefil [2013] IRLR 850. This case sets out four key questions to consider in order to determine whether the employer had acted reasonably by treating the conduct as reason for dismissal:

    1. Whether the employer had genuine belief in the misconduct?
    2. Whether it had reached that belief on reasonable grounds?
    3. Whether that was following a reasonable investigation?
    4. Whether the dismissal of the claimant fell within the range of reasonable responses in the light of that misconduct?

    The EAT held that a breach of contractual obligations did not need to be considered when deciding whether a dismissal was reasonable, it is only a potentially relevant consideration. The EAT held that it was a reasonable conclusion in the circumstances presented here that failing to attend the formal grievance meeting was wrongdoing on the part of the employee.


    This case shows how employers may be able to deal with employees who raise multiple and as in this case, frivolous grievances.  Each case will very much be dependent on the particular facts and care should be taken if an employer is considering dismissing an employee for pursuing grievances which they believe have no merit.

    Further guidance and support

    Our experienced healthcare team takes pride in delivering employment law and HR services that are tailored to your needs.

    If you need advice on the issues covered in this article, please contact Catherine Daw or take advantage of our free 30-minute consultation with our employment law experts.


    This content is correct at time of publication

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