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Case law: Employers dismissing employees following a 'breakdown in relations' between them should first ensure they cannot work together

Employers planning to dismiss an employee because of a 'breakdown in relations' between them should consider giving the employee a chance to prove in practice that they can to work harmoniously before dismissing them.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - August 2016

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

Please note: A newer article on this case was published in the August 2019 edition of Legal Alert following subsequent developments in the legal process.

An employee was dismissed on grounds that the relationship between her and her employer had broken down irretrievably. Her employer argued that this meant she was dismissed for 'some other substantial reason' and her dismissal was therefore fair. She claimed that the relationship had not irretrievably broken down and suggested ways in which she could continue to work with her colleagues.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) agreed that an objective reasonable employer would not have concluded that the employment relationship was beyond repair to the extent that dismissal was a reasonable option.

Particularly, the EAT found that she had not been given the chance to show that she could work harmoniously with her colleagues. Notably, it also found that the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures did not apply to dismissals for 'some other substantial reason' following a breakdown in working relationships.

Operative date

  • Now


  • Employers planning to dismiss an employee because of an alleged breakdown in relations between employer and employee should consider whether to give the employee a chance to prove, in practice, that they can continue to work harmoniously with their colleagues

Case ref: Phoenix House Ltd v Stockman & Anor UKEAT/0264/15/DM

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