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Employment Tribunal Orders Unfairly Dismissed Railwayman’s Reinstatement

A finding of unfair dismissal will, in the vast majority of cases, straightforwardly result in an award of compensation. As one case showed, however, money is not always enough to make up for the destruction of a career and, in such cases, Employment Tribunals (ETs) also have the power to order reinstatement.

The case concerned a veteran railwayman who joined a rail infrastructure company as an apprentice and worked his way up to the position of team leader. Given the risks involved in such work, the company had a zero-tolerance policy in respect of drugs and alcohol misuse. In purported compliance with that policy, the man was dismissed after failing to provide a urine sample for testing.

In later upholding his unfair dismissal claim, an ET found the company’s contention that he had refused to give a sample unsustainable. He had been unable to do so because of an undiagnosed medical condition – shy bladder syndrome – and there was no evidence of culpable or blameworthy conduct on his part. His application for an order reinstating him in his old job was considered at a further hearing.

The man was anxious to return to his previously successful career on the railways. He argued, however, that his dismissal had effectively locked him out of finding any other employment in the sector. Apart from a temporary job in a factory, his extensive search for alternative employment had been fruitless.

Granting the order sought, the ET rejected the company’s arguments that the man’s reinstatement would be viewed as creating a loophole in its zero-tolerance policy. Given that the reasons why he could not give a urine sample were genuine and obviously unique to him, that argument was misconceived.

There were no previous issues concerning his performance at work and his former position remained vacant. There was evidence that his working relationship with his line manager was good and any loss of trust and confidence between him and the company was insufficient to preclude his reinstatement. That step was practicable and capable of being carried into effect successfully.

Published in
17 December 2021
Last Updated
26 January 2023