Dismissal for Raising Vexatious Grievances was Fair

In the case of Hope v British Medical Association, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’) considered the interesting situation relating to the fairness of a dismissal of an employee who had been deemed to have raised vexatious grievances.

The Case

The claimant (Mr Hope) was employed by the respondent (British Medical Association) as a Senior Policy Adviser from June 2014 until his dismissal for gross misconduct on 24th May 2019.

The claimant brought numerous grievances against senior managers, which included, amongst other matters, the failure of senior managers to include him in meetings which he thought he should be attending. The grievances could not be resolved at the informal stage, in part because the claimant wanted to discuss his grievances informally with his line manager. However, the line manager had no authority to resolve these concerns because it involved the decisions of more senior managers.

The claimant refused to progress any of the grievances to the formal stage, instead seeking to retain the ability to do so, and neither did he withdraw the grievances.  Therefore, a formal grievance meeting was scheduled which the claimant refused to attend despite being told that the request was considered to be a reasonable instruction. The grievance hearing proceeded in the claimant’s absence, and the grievances were not upheld. Following the grievance hearing, the respondent considered that the claimant’s conduct amounted to gross misconduct in that:

  • He had brought numerous vexatious and frivolous grievances;
  • He had refused to comply with a reasonable management instruction to attend the grievance meeting; and
  • There had been a fundamental breakdown in the working relationship between the claimant and senior management.

The claimant was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct, and he brought an unfair dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal (‘ET’). The ET found that his dismissal was fair. The claimant appealed to the EAT. The principal ground of appeal was that the ET had erred in failing to consider whether the conduct relied upon was capable of amounting to gross misconduct in the contractual sense and that the ET’s conclusions were perverse.

The EAT dismissed the appeal. It considered that the real question related to the statutory test of whether the employer had acted reasonably in all the circumstances in treating claimant’s conduct as a sufficient reason to dismiss him. The EAT went on to say that the question as to whether the claimant was in breach of his contractual obligations was a potentially relevant consideration, but it was simply one of the circumstances to be taken into account in considering whether the dismissal was fair or unfair within the meaning of Section 98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.


Irrespective of the outcome of this case, the EAT’s judgement should not necessarily be seen as giving employers a carte blanche to dismiss employees for bringing, what might be considered as, frivolous grievances. Unsurprisingly, it would still be advisable to act cautiously before proceeding with disciplining or dismissing an employee for raising concerns.

However, as can be seen from this case, there are times when the factual circumstances as sufficiently strong enough to justify a fair dismissal against an employee who has brought a grievance against the employer.

Louis Howlett, Solicitor

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