Wrongful dismissal and length of service

Is an employee's length of service relevant to the question of whether they have been wrongfully dismissed?

No, held the EAT in East Coast Main Line Company Ltd v Cameron.

The Claimant had been employed by the Respondent since 1981, most recently in the role of shunter. In late 2015, during a night-shift, the Claimant had authorised the departure of a train. A driver, standing between that train and his own, had been 'brushed' by the departing train in what was found to be a serious safety incident.

An investigation concluded the Claimant had failed to carry out adequate safety checks. The Claimant was subsequently summarily dismissed on 11th April 2016. The Claimant brought discrimination, unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal claims. Following a final hearing and an appeal, a subsequent final hearing found the Claimant had been wrongfully dismissed. In doing so it placed weight on the fact that the Claimant had been employed for a considerable length of time. The Respondent appealed.

The EAT, substituting a decision that the dismissal was not wrongful held, amongst other things, that the tribunal was wrong in law to rely on the Claimant's length of service to determine whether he had been wrongfully dismissed.