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Legal News | 16.04.21

Dismissal of an employee for refusing to wear a mask was fair

With Government guidance around Covid-19 health and safety requirements in the workplace being a hot topic, we thought employers and employees may find a recent employment tribunal ruling of interest.

Facts of the case

On 21 May 2020 Mr Kubilius, a HGV driver employed by Kent Foods Limited, drove to the site of a major client of his company, Tate & Lyle, to collect product for transportation. Mr Kubilius was alone in his lorry, when we was repeatedly asked to put on a face mask by Tate & Lyle employees. Mr Kubilius refused to wear a face mask on the grounds that there was no requirement by law or in the site guidelines for him to wear a mask, as he was sitting alone in his cab. This resulted in Mr Kubilius being banned from the site. A disciplinary investigation ensued, resulting in Mr Kubilius’ dismissal for misconduct.

The Tribunal’s Ruling

The Tribunal found that there were reasonable grounds for Kent Foods to believe that Mr Kubilius had committed misconduct. The Driver’s Handbook imposed an obligation to comply with PPE instructions at a client site and Mr Kubilius, by his own admission, had refused to comply.

The Tribunal also held that the investigation into the incident was adequate and the procedure used was fair, all persons involved were interviewed and Mr Kubilius was given the opportunity to present his side of the story.

The Tribunal concluded that while a reasonable employer might have felt that this single instance of misconduct merited a warning rather than a summary dismissal, the question was not whether another employer might have made this decision but whether Kent Food’s decision fell within the range of reasonable responses, which on the facts it did.

Key point to take away

Although on this occasion the Tribunal ruled that the employer’s decision to dismiss an employee for a single instance of misconduct was fair, it will not always do so. Employers must ensure that they have robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that any disciplinary action is carried out correctly and that any subsequent dismissal is fair.

If you would like more specific advice on disciplinary policies and procedures or if you have any employment law queries, then please get in touch with your usual contact at Wansbroughs, via our contact form https://wansbroughs.com/contact/ or email: emma.jewell@wansbroughs.com