• Robert Spicer

Covid-19: worker's refusal to wear face mask

UNFAIR DISMISSAL

Refusal to wear face mask

Case Kubilius v Kent Foods Ltd (2021) 3201960/2020, East London Employment Tribunal

Facts K was employed by KF, a food distribution company, as a lorry driver. The company’s handbook stated that employees should take all reasonable steps to safeguard their own health and safety and that of any other person who might be affected by their actions at work. It also stated that customer instruction regarding PPE must be followed.

K was a regular visitor to Tate&Lyle’s sugar refinery. Tate&Lyle decided that all staff at the site should wear face masks as a safety precaution to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, and all visitors were issued with face masks at the gatehouse.

K wore a mask when working outside his vehicle but he was seen in his cab without a face covering. He refused a request to put a mask on and he was banned from returning to the Tate&Lyle site.

K was dismissed on the basis that a deliberate refusal to comply with a health and safety instruction was a serious breach. His site manager commented that K’s lack of remorse in the disciplinary hearing was an important factor in the decision to dismiss.

K’s complaint of unfair dismissal was dismissed by the ET. It found that the decision to dismiss fell within the range of reasonable responses. A reasonable employer might have concluded that this example of misconduct merited a warning rather than dismissal. However, K’s continued insistence that he had done nothing wrong had resulted in his employer’s loss of confidence in his ability to work with clients.

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