Dismissing employee for failing to complete training was 'not unfair'

A pharmaceutical company was within its rights to dismiss an employee who failed to complete mandatory online training courses.

That was the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in a recent case involving a medical sales rep Mr Barongo. who was employed by Quintiles Commercial UK.

In January 2016, Mr Barongo was dismissed for failing to complete two online training courses.

He took legal action claiming unfair dismissal. He didn’t deny that he failed to complete the training but said that was only because he was prioritising more important tasks.

Quintiles claimed their trust in Mr Barongo had been damaged and dismissed him for gross misconduct, which was later reduced to serious misconduct.

The tribunal ruled in favour of Mr Barongo. It said that Quintiles had been wrong to consider the actions as gross misconduct. Given that this was later downgraded to serious misconduct, a warning would have been the appropriate disciplinary action.

However, the EAT has overturned that decision. Judge Eady, QC, described the approach of the tribunal as “fundamentally flawed”.

She said there had been too much focus on the nature of Mr Barongo’s misconduct when the severity of Quintiles response was the key to the case.

Judge Eady QC said: “The tribunal’s approach in this case was flawed: it unduly limited the potential range of reasonable responses by applying a general rule as to when dismissal might be fair in cases of conduct falling short of gross misconduct, when no such rule is laid down.”

However, she added that it would not be right for the EAT to reach its own verdict regarding the case, and that it must be put before another employment tribunal to be settled.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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