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Do I have a case for unfair dismissal?


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I am a permanent employee for firm A and my services were contracted out to one of their clients, B. I had been working onsite at client B for around 3 years and in that time I had a fantastic relationship with supervisor at B and my manager at A. Never a sore word said, constant over-achievement and high rated appraisals, years of continuous pay rise and promotion. Ideal job, you could say.

 

There is a lot in between but to be brief;

 

July: Was dragged a disciplinary meeting to be told that for the two months from May-July the client had not been happy with my attitude and performance. I challenged each point and all but one claim from around 7 were completely unfounded and had no proof and/or were blown out of proportion. Prior to this meeting I was oblivious to there being any problems. My work was completed to normal standards, on time and was never asked twice... you get the point. I get given a 2 week time scale to 'improve' on whatever may be the problem. No-one had approached me to let me know there was a problem, no e-mails, no informal chats... nothing.

 

August: Follow up meeting under the same circumstances, however this time I'm told I haven't changed and a new set of 'problems' are thrown my way. Again, all unfounded. I have seen people in my team in similar situations and I knew from this point onwards that the client was trying to terminate my contract. Written warning given by my firm (A) with the reasons that my attitude and performance were not to standards. Completely unfounded and I could tell that my company were regretting the move they were forced into by the client.

 

September: I was pulled into another meeting at 24 hours notice to be told that my contract would not be required at the client as I was "surplus to requirement" and the client contract was to be terminated immediately. My firm (A) would obviously continue to employ me on full salary and attempt to find new roles with the client or at HQ. My firm were full of resentment and was told by HR and my manager that this was very unusual and unfounded but at the end of the day they didn't want to sacrifice their relationship with the client over a single employee.

 

October: My firm bad been good to me; for a month they paid me whilst looking for other work and so forth but ... it came to a point where they told me that they could no longer financially support me as there were no suitable roles available.

 

So they served me my notice. i.e sacked me.

 

It was claimed redundancy was not an option since the position at the client would likely be filled, therefore they would have to terminate my employment for "some other substantial reason".

 

Any advice? Thank you in advance.

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If the nature of your job was to be placed with a client, and the client decided that for whatever reason they were unwilling to have you on their premises, then this would be a potentially fair reason for dismissal, provided that your employer has acted reasonably and that there was no suitable alternative to dismissal.

 

Unfortunately at the end of the day, your employer cannot force the client to accept you, and providing that they have explores all reasonable alternatives, and that they have given you proper notice, then I believe that this would be unlikely to be overturned by a Tribunal. Even a personality clash can be adequate reason, so when you say that all bar one of 7 potential reasons given bu the client were overturned, how bad an issue was the one event that you couldn't argue? Is there a suspicion that the client is now taking back 'in-house' the service that you were there to perform? Can you see any other reason why the client might have wanted to discontinue using your services? Has another employee from your company been sent there instead? Have you appealed against the dismissal?

 

There might well be arguments surrounding the 'redundancy' or otherwise of your position, but the difficulty will be in proving this. Without giving too many details if you don't want to, what was the nature of your role? A little more information may help others to give a more detailed response.

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I am not entirely sure that I agree. I think there is a reasonable argument for this being a redundancy. If we were to discount the whole disciplinary matter, which I think is something of a red herring, we would have a situation where the client contract has been terminated (as I understand the OP). The fact that this contract may be renewed at some future date is no different from the "business might pick up again in the future" scenario. At this moment in time the employer has a reduced need for the number of positions they have, and need to reduce the headcount. That would make it a redundancy. And subject to the normal redundancy procedures.

 

However, I have to emphasise that this is an alternative argument to the one put by Sidewinder - either scenario could be construed from the details provided here, and the exact nature of the termination could be argued either way at any tribunal - which I suppose, at the end of the day, is the normal "lot" of a tribunal, that arguments are opposed, and one is betting on what the tribunal will decide is the most persuasive argument based on the documentation, evidence, and obviously the skill of the argument.

 

You also have to be aware that if you were to pursue this then there may be consequences. If you are likely to get a good reference, would that change if you took a case? References only have to be truthful, and there are ways and means of telling the truth which can be helpful or unhelpful. Tribunals take a consdierable amount of time to get to hearings, so this could be an issue in realtion to getting future employment, and you may prefer to bet on the chances of getting a new job relatively quickly with a good reference behind you, rather than the risk of a poor reference and not getting a job whilst waiting for a "dodgy" chance at tribunal.

 

I'd have to say that if you wanted to take this further you would certainly need to get legal advice, and since I assume that you are not a union member, your options for this may be limited if you have no legal insurance.

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I am a barrister specialising in employment law, and only represent employees. My advice on employment issues is advice - not legal opinion - and is based only on the facts you provide. If you want an accurate assessment of your case and prospects, you should get legal opinion from a lawyer - not a public forum. Anything I tell you is for guidance only, and is based on my experience of the law in the context of what details you provide.

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