Hi there, thanks for getting back to me. Capability, where an employee is unable to perform their job due to ill health, is a potentially fair reasons for dismissing an employee under the Employment Rights Act 1996. The definition of ‘capability’ includes competence (skill and aptitude), health (any mental/physical quality) and qualifications.
Whether a capability dismissal is fair will depend on the particular circumstances and the procedure that was followed. The employer needs to show they had reasonable grounds to believe that the employee was incapable of performing their job and that nothing further could be done to assist them. In the end they need to show that dismissal was a reasonable decision to take. The courts have held that an important consideration is whether any reasonable employer would have waited longer in the circumstances before dismissing the employee.
When looking at the reasonableness of such a dismissal, the tribunal will usually look at the following elements:
• What was the nature of the illness
• Was the employee consulted over their position and did the employer try to ascertain the true medical position
• What was the likelihood of the employee returning to work or the illness reoccurring in the future
• The effect a prolonged absence would have on the business and the workforce
• The availability of other suitable employment that the employee could do instead
Dismissal must always be viewed as a last resort by the employer. Only when it is obvious that the employee cannot continue in their job and that there was nothing else available for them to do would dismissal become a fair option.
It is also important to consider the additional rights someone would have if the condition that is affecting them amounts to a 'disability', in which case they must not be treated unfavourably because of their disability. In addition, their employer would have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if they are likely to be placed at a substantial disadvantage when compared to non-disabled employees.
So in summary, if the employer has not taken time to investigate the true medical position, whether suitable employment was available and generally considered the effects the employee's continued absence would have on the business, any dismissal could potentially be unfair. In addition, if they have failed to make reasonable adjustments in the event the employee's condition amounted to a disability, this could also amount to disability discrimination.
Your other queries:
• If you are dismissed, whether for gross misconduct or something else, the employer will no longer be obliged to continue making pensions contributions because you will not be employee by them. However it is very rare that they would be entitled to claw back past contributions, usually it is only possible if the contract or pensions scheme allows it and in cases of fraud or similar
• Accepting termination under a PILON will not affect your ability or chances of claiming in tribunal, apart from bringing the date of termination forward and with it, the time limit to make a claim.
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