We are now starting to see decisions come through for pandemic-related employment claims, such as the recent case of Mr Francesco Accattatis v Fortuna Group (London) Limited.
Mr Accattatis worked for a company which sells PPE. He was uncomfortable attending his place of work (which involved travelling by bus) during lockdown and he could not work from home. Requests for furlough were declined and Mr Accattatis was told if he did not wish to attend work, he could take paid holiday or unpaid leave. In the face of Mr Accattatis’ evident reluctance to attend work, he was dismissed.
Although he did not have the requisite two years’ service to claim ordinary unfair dismissal, Mr Accattatis claimed he had been dismissed for refusing to attend work, which was automatically unfair because:
The Tribunal agreed with Mr Accattatis that there were circumstances of danger which he reasonably believed to be serious and imminent. However his claim failed on the grounds that he was not dismissed for proposing to stay at home (which he could have done by taking leave), but rather for unreasonably demanding to be paid whilst at home (either under the furlough scheme or by working from home).
Whilst only a first instance decision which other Employment Tribunals are not bound to follow, this gives an interesting insight into how Tribunals approach claims of this sort and shows that the pandemic may not on its own justify a refusal to attend work if employers have reasonably tried to accommodate employees' concerns.
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