Case Law Analysis: EAT Decision in Astha Ltd & Chakraborty v Grewal Clarifies Key Issues in Disability Discrimination and Unfair Dismissal Compensation

Citation: [2023] EAT 170
Judgment on

Introduction

This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the case law “Astha Limited & Chakraborty v Grewal [2023] EAT 170,” decided by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). The judgment, presided over by Deputy Judge of the High Court, Mr. Bruce Carr KC, addressed various critical legal principles concerning disability discrimination, unfair dismissal, and related compensation issues.

Key Facts

”Astha Ltd & Chakraborty v Grewal” involved the appeal of remedy decisions subsequent to the claimant/respondent Mr. Grewal’s successful claims for unfair dismissal under section 94 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) and disability discrimination under section 15 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA). The key contentions in the appeal pertained to (1) deduction for contributory fault, (2) whether subsequent employment and dismissal broke the chain of causation for loss of earnings, (3) assessment of the basic award for unfair dismissal, and (4) individual liability of the second appellant/respondent Ms. Chakraborty for awards that the tribunal found could only be made against the employer.

Contributory Fault Deduction

The EAT dealt with the concept of contributory fault under the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 and the ERA. The appellants’ initial argument that the Employment Tribunal (ET) erred in failing to make a deduction for contributory fault was dismissed on the basis that a Polkey deduction (pertaining to dismissal likelihood regardless of procedural fairness) had been made, and making a further deduction could penalize the claimant twice for the same conduct, citing Lenlyn UK v Kular as their guide.

Break in the Chain of Causation

The Tribunal addressed whether subsequent employment and its termination severed the claimant’s loss of earnings’ causal linkage to his original wrongful dismissal. The principle set out in Dench v Flynn & Partners was applied, asserting that the acquisition of new employment does not always end loss attribution to the prior dismissal. This principle is particularly relevant where subsequent employment is at a lower pay or is then lost through no fault of the claimant.

Assessment of Basic Award

The discussion touched on the correct application of a basic award under section 122 of the ERA. This award pertains exclusively to the employer, with no provision for individual liability beyond the employer’s liability.

Individual Liability for Awards

The EAT discussed the individual liability of the second appellant/respondent, Ms. Chakraborty, ordering a reduction in the amount she was required to pay due to the error in holding her personally liable for the basic award and compensation for failure to provide written employment particulars, which are employer-specific obligations.

Outcomes

The EAT dismissed the appeal regarding the contributory fault and break in the chain of causation, maintaining the ET’s judgment. However, the appeal was allowed in part regarding Ms. Chakraborty’s personal liability, noting that individuals cannot be held liable for awards specific to the employer. Consequently, her liability was reduced by the amounts pertaining to the basic award (£5,411.25) and the award for failure to provide written particulars of employment (£1,244.88).

Conclusion

The EAT affirmed several crucial legal principles in this case, establishing that while contributory conduct can influence the assessment of compensation, it need not invariably result in a deduction where a Polkey reduction has already accounted for such conduct. The decision also confirmed that subsequent employment does not necessarily break the chain of causation for losses following wrongful dismissal. Most importantly, the case reaffirmed that individual respondents cannot be held liable for awards that are the sole responsibility of the employer, clarifying the limits of personal liability in employment-related claims. This judgment provides valuable guidance for employment law practitioners on the nuances of compensation calculation and liability attribution within the UK legal framework.

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