Police insist on dismissal of designated premises supervisor

After several violent incidents at a nightclub operated by William Hardwicke, the Police made a licence review application to the local authority. As a result of this they insisted that Mr Nye, the Designated Premises Supervisor of 10 years for that club, be dismissed.

Under the Licensing Act one of the obligations on a licence holder is to take steps to prevent crime and disorder. There had been 8 assaults at the nightclub.  The Police claimed that Mr Nye had failed to follow correct procedures in reporting the crimes and this had led to evidence being lost and investigations collapsing.  They insisted that for the nightclub to retain its licence Mr Nye must be dismissed by the company.

It became clear that the police position on Mr Nye’s dismissal was non-negotiable and the operator company informed the police that it would dismiss him in order to retain its licence. The company began its disciplinary procedure with Mr Nye; a letter inviting him to the first disciplinary meeting stated that it may result in his dismissal.  Following the first meeting time was allowed to consider whether there was another role for Mr Nye in the company. The outcome was that Mr Nye was dismissed – but when the case came before a Tribunal, the dismissal was found to have been unfair.

Can you dismiss because someone else instructs you to?
In short yes, but a fair procedure must be followed. When a third-party (such an important client or outside agency such as the Police) pressurises you into dismissing an employee this can be a fair reason for dismissal if serious harm to the business would be the result of failing to dismiss. This will be a dismissal for “some other substantial reason” which is one of the statutory fair reasons for dismissal.

Fair procedure
If you are pressurised into dismissing an employee you must follow a fair procedure.  You will need to consider whether the threat to your business is great enough to justify the dismissal. If it is, then consider if there is a solution other than dismissal and whether the dismissal would be an injustice to the employee.  If this is the case then you must do all you can to mitigate this, for example by trying to get the third party to change its mind or by bending over backwards to find another role for the employee.

In the Hardwicke case the Tribunal decided that the nightclub stood a very strong chance of losing its licence if it did not dismiss Mr Nye and this was a fair reason for the dismissal. However, the dismissal was procedurally unfair.  The company had told the police that it was going to dismiss Mr Nye before it started to consult with him.  The decision to dismiss after the meeting was a rubber stamping exercise and was not reached having heard Mr Nye’s side of the story. The company had not considered the injustice that Mr Nye would suffer as a result of the police’s insistence.

The outcome was that Mr Nye was awarded a basic award only.  The Tribunal felt that he would have been dismissed even if the company had followed a fair procedure and therefore no compensation was payable. Nevertheless, the company had to undergo a time consuming process defending their claim, which could have been avoided.

Practical Advice
If you are pressurised to dismiss an employee:

  • Consider if dismissal is justified and what is the risk to your business?
  • Try to find another solution – will the third party change its mind?
  • Consider if there is an injustice to the employee – bend over backwards to find an alternative role.
  • Follow a fair procedure.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.