EAT Upholds Tribunal Decision in Fry v Kingswood Case: Analysis of Perversity and Sufficiency of Reasons

Citation: [2023] EAT 166
Judgment on

Introduction

The case of Fry v Kingswood Learning & Leisure Group Ltd ([2023] EAT 166) in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) presents an examination of two core legal principles: the interpretation of an Employment Tribunal’s perversity in decision-making and the sufficiency of the reasons given for its judgment. The appeal raised two grounds, contesting the Employment Tribunal’s findings on the knowledge of the dismissing manager regarding the claimant’s protected disclosures and whether the reasons provided for the decision were adequate.

Key Facts

The case arises from an Employment Tribunal decision concerning the dismissal of Mrs. Fry, the claimant, by Kingswood Learning & Leisure Group Ltd, the respondent. The claimant alleged that her dismissal was due to her making protected disclosures, commonly known as “whistleblowing.” The Employment Tribunal’s initial judgment hinged on whether the dismissing manager, Mr. Husband, had knowledge of the claimant’s protected disclosures prior to the decision to dismiss her. The Tribunal concluded that Mr. Husband was not aware of the claimant’s disclosures at the time of dismissal, and as such, the dismissal could not have been due to whistleblowing.

Perversity

The EAT, guided by the principle outlined in Yeboah v Crofton ([2002] IRLR 634), assessed whether the Employment Tribunal’s decision was one that no reasonable Tribunal could reach based on the evidence and the law. The “perversity” appeal criterion is a stringent one, necessitating the demonstration that the Tribunal’s decision was not just questionable, but overwhelmingly unreasonable.

Sufficiency of Reasons

The EAT also deliberated on the adequacy of reasons as mandated by Rule 62(4) and (5) of the Employment Tribunal Rules and Procedure (SI 2013/1237). Following the standard set in Meek v City of Birmingham District Council ([1987] IRLR 250), the judgment must outline the narrative, summarize basic factual conclusions, and provide reasoning for those conclusions. This helps parties understand why they won or lost, and allows the appellate body to discern the path the Tribunal took to reach its decision.

In this case, the EAT applied these principles to evaluate the sufficiency of the Tribunal’s reasoning in relation to its finding on Mr. Husband’s knowledge of the protected disclosure. The EAT referred to Frame v Governing Body of the Llangiwg Primary School ([2020] UKEAT/0320/19) and DPP Law Limited v Greeenberg ([2021] EWCA Civ 672) to affirm that the Tribunal need not address every argument made at trial but must identify and record what was critical to its decision.

Outcomes

The EAT dismissed the appeal. With regards to perversity, it found that the Employment Tribunal had several possible dates to choose from regarding Mr. Husband’s knowledge due to inconsistencies in his testimony. The corroborating statement by Mr. Watson that he did not inform Mr. Husband until after the grievance meant that the selection of the knowledge date in October 2020 was not perverse.

Regarding the sufficiency of reasons, the EAT determined that the Tribunal had sufficiently articulated its reasoning for selecting the October 2020 date as the point at which Mr. Husband became aware of the protected disclosures. The Tribunal was not required to exhaustively reject each potential alternative date provided by Mr. Husband but needed only to provide adequate reasoning for the date it accepted.

Conclusion

The EAT upheld the original judgment, confirming that the Employment Tribunal had not acted perversely in its decision-making and had adequately explained its reasoning. This case reaffirms the high threshold for establishing perversity and underscores the necessity for an Employment Tribunal to clearly articulate the critical findings and reasoning underpinning its decisions, particularly when an employee’s dismissal is allegedly linked to whistleblowing. The key takeaway for legal professionals is the importance of consistency in witness testimony and the weight appellate bodies will place on corroborated evidence when evaluating an appeal on factual findings.

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