EAT overturns strike out of health and safety dismissal claim

The EAT has overturned an employment tribunal’s decision to strike out a claim for automatically unfair constructive dismissal on the grounds that it was not properly pleaded.

In Mbuisa v Cygnet Healthcare Ltd, the claimant alleged that his employer failed to act on the health and safety concerns which he raised, including assaults and threats by patients, and having to do lifting despite a back injury. According to the claimant, the employer denied the existences of such breaches and allowed those issues to continue. The claimant resigned as a result of the employer’s inaction.

The claimant sought to bring a claim of automatically unfair constructive dismissal. The tribunal struck out the claim because the claimant had failed to accurately plead his claim.

On appeal, the EAT overturned the earlier strike out decision. The EAT found that to strike out a claim because it was poorly pleaded was inappropriate, particularly where there was a dispute as to the facts of the case. The EAT said that extra caution must be exercised by tribunals when dealing with badly pleaded claims, which are common with litigants in person.

In this case, the EAT had to read between the lines of a fairly expansive statement of case in order to discern the nature of the claim.
Employers will be frustrated by the EAT’s refusal to strike out this and other poorly pleaded claims, which can be difficult and time-consuming for employers to interpret and expensive to defend.

Ultimately, the message is clear: striking out is an option which tribunals do not take lightly and which is very rarely used. Any claim made or threatened must be taken very seriously, even if on the face of it there appears to be little substance to such a claim.

If you require assistance with any of the above matters, please contact David Greenhalgh of the Joelson employment team on +44 (0)20 7580 5721.

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.