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Country Court Care Homes 2 wins unfair dismissal case over resident hitting claims

Country Court Care Homes 2 Ltd has won an employment tribunal in which an employee was dismissed after a resident made allegations of threatening behaviour.

In the employment tribunal, the claimant, Ms S Newton, alleged unfair dismissal against her employer of 22 years.

The dismissal centres on allegations that during a night shift, the claimant took a call bell out of the wall and threatened to hit the resident identified as D. D was not diagnosed with dementia but had an identified need with respect to memory and understanding, causing her anxiety, confusion and frustration. At the time of her dismissal, the claimant had an unblemished disciplinary record.

On investigation, the claimant said she remembered D ringing her call bell a few times. She said that when it rang, she went into D’s room and cancelled the call bell.  When the claimant pulled back the blanket, she thought it pulled out her call bell. At that time D raised her hand, and the claimant thought that D was going to hit her. She said that she told D: “Don’t you dare hit me”.

In a statement, D said the claimant had pulled the call bell out of the wall and placed it where the resident could not reach it. D also stated that the claimant shouted at her and told her not to call, and threatened to hit her. The claimant denied placing the bell out of reach and threatening to hit D.

In the judgement, presiding employment Judge Murphy explained that the tribunal will need to decide the following:

  • The respondent genuinely believed the claimant had committed misconduct
  • If the reason was misconduct, that the respondent acted reasonably in all the circumstances in treating that as a sufficient reason to dismiss the claimant
  • There were reasonable grounds for that belief
  • At the time the belief was formed, the respondent had carried out a reasonable investigation
  • The respondent otherwise acted in a procedurally fair manner
  • Dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses.

Finding in favour of the respondent, Judge Murphy decided the following:

  • There was no compelling evidence to challenge the reason put forward by the respondent for the claimant’s dismissal
  • The evidence gathered in the investigation offered reasonable grounds for the belief she formed
  • The approach to the investigation fell within the range of reasonable responses
  • The process followed by the respondent complied with the published disciplinary procedure and with the principles of the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance procedures
  • Dismissal fell within the range of reasonable responses open to an employer of the respondent’s type and scale.  

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