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Dignity Funerals v. William Douglas Bruce


Inner House, Court of Session

The appellant employer (D) appealed against a decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal increasing a compensatory award to the respondent employee (B). B had signed off work with reactive depression and was summarily dismissed. Subsequently he brought proceedings for unfair dismissal at the employment tribunal. It was common ground that he had not worked from the date of dismissal to the end of the tribunal hearing. He maintained that he had been unfit for work during that period. The tribunal upheld his claim for unfair dismissal but held that it would not be just and equitable under the Employment Rights Act 1996 s.123(1) to award compensation for the relevant period. Instead it had awarded £9,370 in respect of six months future loss of earnings. B appealed. The EAT criticised the tribunal's decision on the basis that it had failed to give reasons for not awarding compensation during the relevant period. It took the view that B had suffered from reactive depression during the relevant period and that there was a causal connection between the dismissal and his illness. Accordingly, the EAT increased the award by £15,050 on the basis that that figure had been agreed by the parties. The central issue on appeal was the assessment of compensation.

HELD: (1) The tribunal clearly erred in failing to give proper and adequate reasons for not making a compensatory award for the relevant period . The decision was made without a proper basis of findings in fact. The tribunal made no finding as to whether the dismissal was a cause of B's lack of fitness to work. (2) The EAT's decision to increase the compensatory award was based on a misunderstanding. D's solicitor had conceded that if B was found to be entitled to a compensatory award for loss of earnings during the relevant period, then the correct amount was £15,050. In error, the EAT took that to mean that if the appeal succeeded on the question of the compensatory award, then the award was to be increased by that amount. The decision of the EAT was set aside and the case was remitted to the tribunal.

Appeal allowed.

[2005] IRLR 189

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