You would generally be right to think that what goes on in your life away from your workplace is nobody’s business but your own. In one case, however, a financial consultant’s failure to disclose his bankruptcy to his employer was ruled by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) to be a sufficient ground for dismissal.
The man, who worked for an estate agency, was suffering financial difficulties after prolonged periods on sick leave and was declared bankrupt at his own behest. His bankruptcy came to his employer’s attention a few days later following a Google search. A disciplinary procedure ensued, resulting in his dismissal.
In pursuing an unfair dismissal complaint before an Employment Tribunal (ET), he pointed out that there was no express term in his contract that required him to notify the employer of his bankruptcy, nor did the employer have a policy to that effect. He asserted that, although he was under no obligation to reveal his bankruptcy to the employer, he would have done so in due course.
Rejecting his complaint, however, the ET preferred the employer’s argument that, given the level of responsibility his role involved, he should have appreciated that his bankruptcy was the sort of thing the employer would regard as a matter of serious concern and would have expected him to disclose.
The employer was entitled to conclude that his failure to do so was culpable and that the evidence suggested, on balance, that he was not going to voluntarily disclose his bankruptcy. It was further entitled to take the view that he had breached his duty of trust and confidence. Although harsh, the decision to dismiss him fell within the band of reasonable responses open to the employer.
Dismissing his challenge to that outcome, the EAT noted that it could not go behind the ET’s factual findings. When viewed overall, the disciplinary process was fair and he was given a sufficient opportunity to put forward his mitigation. There was no legal flaw in the ET’s conclusion that the employer was entitled to view his conduct as sufficiently serious to warrant dismissal.