jennifer smith4 Is a clash of personalities between a senior employee and a junior employee a sufficient reason to dismiss?

Jennifer Smith (Employment Solicitor)

Not necessarily, so act with caution! If you think you have an issue with a personality clash between employees, you should take a very careful and well thought out approach to avoid an employment law claim. 

Firstly, let’s go back to basics – where an employee is eligible to claim unfair dismissal, they must have 12 months service, and you must have a ‘potentially’ fair reason for dismissal and also act reasonably, in all the circumstances, in dismissing for that reason. So what are the six potentially fair reasons to dismiss?

These are redundancy, capability, conduct, some other substantial reason, retirement and where there is a statutory prohibition on continuing to employ someone i.e. it would be illegal to continue to employee them. Some other substantial reason is often regarded as a ‘catch-all’ category and covers a number of employment related reasons. The clash between the two individuals may be grounds for a fair dismissal, perhaps for conduct or even some other substantial reason if one employee is simply being unreasonable. However, the company must believe that the reason for the dismissal is serious enough to be capable of justifying dismissal. So, if the more senior employee is simply acting unreasonably and looking for an excuse to dismiss this junior employee, he would be likely to lose any unfair dismissal claim brought by him at an employment tribunal.

If however, the junior employee’s non co-operation is putting the company’s business at risk and it is clear that the breakdown between them is beyond repair, then this may well be a potentially fair reason for this employee’s dismissal.