In a case which vividly underlines that a wise employer acts with deliberation and fairness, a brewery chain has been ordered to pay almost £45,000 compensation to a couple who were left homeless after being locked out of the pub they managed without notice.
The husband and wife had lived with their four young children at the pub they jointly managed before their employers – ‘without any form of process’ – terminated their employment contracts forthwith and required them to leave. Apparently in the mistaken belief that the couple’s employment had not continued for a year – and that they were thus entitled to no statutory protection – their employers changed the locks on the premises on the same day as their dismissal.
An employment tribunal subsequently found that the couple’s dismissal had been both procedurally and substantively unfair and awarded each of them damages to reflect, amongst other things, their substantial loss of earnings. The wife had fallen into depression after her dismissal and her husband, although finding some work as a taxi driver, had had to take time off to look after her.
In challenging the amount of the awards before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), the employers argued that it had not been proved that the wife’s depression had been caused by her dismissal. It was also submitted that it was unconnected physical ailments from which she suffered, and not her psychiatric condition, that had resulted in her inability to work.
Dismissing the employers’ appeal, however, the EAT noted evidence from the wife’s doctor that she had been ‘severely’ depressed after losing her job and that her condition was, in his view, ‘directly attributable’ to her summary dismissal. In those circumstances, the tribunal had been entitled to find that her depression was due ‘in no small part’ to the loss of her employment and home. In the light of that finding, the employers’ challenge to the husband’s loss of earnings award fell away.