Employees do not need a year’s service in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim if they reasonably believe even if wrongly that they are in serious and imminent danger and, as a result, take reasonable steps to prevent harm to themselves and others.
This case involves a chef, who was dismissed after refusing to mop up an area behind some fryers in the kitchen. He was worried that this was unsafe, due to some electrical wiring being exposed. He was dismissed for disregarding food hygiene and for failing to obey instructions.
On appeal, the EAT said that tribunals should consider firstly whether the employee reasonably believed there were dangerous circumstances that were serious and imminent and, if so, whether he took, or proposed to take, appropriate steps to protect himself or others from the danger, or to communicate the circumstances to the employer.
If so, the question is whether the employer’s sole, or main, reason for dismissal was the employee’s actions. The fact that an employer may disagree with an employee’s view as to whether there was danger, or whether the steps the employee took were appropriate, is irrelevant.