Sacked Maritime Armed Guard Has Compensation Hopes Boosted

When losing parties read an Employment Tribunal (ET) decision, fairness demands that it should be clear to them exactly why they have failed. In one case where that did not happen, a maritime armed guard who was sacked after failing to get on with a client won a fresh chance to prove that his dismissal was unfair.

The Ex-Royal Marine was employed to provide armed security services on board vessels at risk of piracy. After he attended an induction day with a new client, the latter stated that it did not wish to work with him. The company that employed him assured him that it would investigate the matter further, but did not do so before his fixed-term contract expired.

He complained to an ET that he had not received the benefit of a disciplinary hearing at which he would have had the opportunity to explain himself, and his employer had failed to seek out alternative employment for him. The ET, however, found that his dismissal was fair in that it fell within the range of reasonable responses open to the company, and accepted the employer’s arguments that it was not its practice to see if there was alternative work in other sections of the company and that the market was contracting.

In ruling on the man’s challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the ET had reached a permissible conclusion that, in a contracting market, there was no evidence that alternative vacancies existed at the time within the company or its associated businesses.

However, in upholding his appeal, the EAT noted that the company had specifically told him that it would investigate his falling out with the client further. There was, in the circumstances, no sufficient basis for the ET’s assumption that the company had actively decided not to proceed with that investigation in the belief that it would not have altered the outcome, rather than simply allowing the matter to drift. The ET’s decision was therefore unsafe and the case was sent back to a freshly constituted ET for reconsideration.