NHS reorganisation

February 11th, 2013 by James Goudie KC

Sandford and Parkin v Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UKEAT/0324/12/DM were unfair dismissal claims. The issue was the reasonableness of the dismissals.  The dismissals were for “some other substantial reason”. They arose in this way: new, less favourable terms and conditions of employment having been offered to, and refused by, the claimants, their contracts of employment were terminated, on notice, and offers were made to them of re-engagement.  The ET held that the dismissals were fair. The EAT dismissed the claimants’ appeals. 

The background was the Agenda for Change process in the NHS.  The Trust decided to re-band the posts of 22 employees, including the two claimants, who were to be reduced one level in the pay structure.  All were offered two years pay protection if they accepted the proposed change.  20 employees did so. The two claimants refused.

The EAT accepted the submissions of Counsel, Holly Stout, for the Trust, including that the ET took into account 3 relevant factors in reaching its conclusion that dismissal for some other substantial reason, namely that the Trust had shown a good reason for undertaking the reorganisation leading to the re-banding and that both claimants were dismissed for refusing to accept the new terms and conditions, fell within the band of reasonable responses, being (1) that 91% of the affected employees had accepted the new terms, (2) that the Trust had reasonably explored all alternatives to dismissal before dismissing the claimants, and (3) that there was a lack of opposition by the Trade Unions to the proposed changes. 

The legal principles were clear and well established by the authorities. The ET had not misdirected themselves in law.  On the contrary, they had applied the law correctly to the facts as found and reached a permissible properly reasoned conclusion that the dismissals were fair.