Delaying the termination date and unfair dismissal

Garcha-Singh v. British Airways Plc

In this case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), upheld an Employment Tribunal decision that an employer fairly dismissed the employee by reason of a medical incapacity, despite the employer postponing the termination date on several occasions.


The employee, who was BA cabin crew, was off work and BA were following its absence and management policy.  The absence and management policy was contractual.  Contrary to the policy, on several occasions, the employer decided to postpone termination.  

The Tribunal (and the EAT agreed) dismissed the unfair dismissal claim.  It found that the procedure adopted by BA was unusual but found that although the policy did not provide specifically for a postponement, the employer’s decision to postpone did not constitute a breach of contract.  They further found that, even if there was a breach of contract, it did not follow that the dismissal was unfair because the Tribunal still had to ask itself whether the procedure adopted by an employer was within the ‘range of reasonable responses’.  It was clear here that it was, particularly given that the extensions, which the manager decided to put in place, were of advantage to the employee and were intended to allow him further opportunity to return to work, even if in the end they allegedly caused further stress.


The case is a good decision for employers.  It shows that a Tribunal should take into account management discretion, even where a policy is contractual, particularly where that discretion is exercised in favour of the employee. It reminds us that employers, provided the procedure they adopt is within a band of reasonable options, does not have to follow a perfect course of action.