Jaguar Land Rover has been told to pay a former employee £147,000 for unfair dismissal and discrimination after wrongly accusing him of not trying hard enough to find a new job.
The decision was made at a remedy hearing in July, which followed an earlier tribunal ruling that Daniel Williams had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against by Jaguar Land Rover.
At the remedy hearing, Jaguar Land Rover’s legal representative Mr T Perry argued for lower compensation on the grounds that Williams had not done enough to find alternative employment.
However, the tribunal heard that he had retrained as a plumber and, while on the one-year training course, looked for manufacturing work, seasonal employment and work as a plumber’s mate.
Employment judge Sara Woffenden and Mr KW Hutchinson ruled that Jaguar Land Rover should pay the claimant compensation for unfair dismissal and discrimination in the sum of £147,572.75.
Williams was employed by Jaguar Land Rover as a production operative from 12 April 2014 to 19 March 2020, the tribunal heard. When he was dismissed, he received £4,400 pay in lieu of notice.
The dismissal came during a period of mental health-related absence.
Despite Perry’s argument that he would have been dismissed anyway “in a very short period”, the tribunal heard that his health issues were “pretty much resolved” at that point.
Woffenden said: “We conclude that if he had not been dismissed he would have been back at work full time by 2 March 2020 and would have either been furloughed or continued working at the respondent during the pandemic.
“There is no evidence that his employment would have ended; he did not want to leave.”
After his dismissal, the claimant lived with his parents and, according to the tribunal report, “was unable to sleep because the circumstances around his dismissal were on repeat in his head”.
The report added: “He felt worthless, sad and angry about losing his job… and upset at being unable to provide for his daughter as he once had done.”
When the first Covid lockdown ended in July 2020, the tribunal heard Williams began to look for work.
He did not have a driving licence and buses into Birmingham ran at hours that did not suit the work he was seeking.
The report said: “He looked for work at the factories located in the industrial estates near his parent’s home but without success.”
In September 2020, Williams began a one-year course to train as a plumber. The tribunal heard he could not find work during the “unprecedented times of furlough and redundancies” and believed retraining was the best way to “achieve the same salary he had been paid by the respondent”.
Perry, for Jaguar Land Rover, cross-examined Williams about how much effort he had put into finding work – including at HS2, which had been advertising lots of roles in the area.
Williams said he did not have the necessary qualifications, nor the means to get to the site. He said he was searching largely for manufacturing roles, but also applied unsuccessfully for seasonal work with Boots and Aldi.
In February 2021, he signed with an agency and secured one day of work at BMW Hams Hall, while also making contact with local plumbers to ask for work as a plumber's mate.
The tribunal heard that, having completed his year-long course, he began working as a self-employed plumber with Hardyman.
On 27 March 2023, he secured a full-time role as a heating and ventilation engineer and told the tribunal that he was “not yet earning the salary he was paid by the respondent and thinks it will take him about another year to do so”. He also passed his driving test in February 2023.
Woffenden and Hutchinson said: “In our judgement the claimant has taken reasonable steps to minimise the losses suffered as a consequence of the unlawful act of dismissal as and when he was in a position to do so having regard to his personal circumstances (his previous experience in manufacturing, his inability to drive or to learn to drive, his childcare responsibilities and where he lived) set against the prevailing background of the Covid pandemic.
“His move to retrain at a time when his efforts to obtain work had been unsuccessful was not unreasonable nor were the steps he took after commencing training unreasonable.”
Perry contended that there was: “Ample evidence… of vacancies for the period from March 2020 to June 2021, numerous of which would have been suitable for him and he would have been considered a strong candidate for them given his experience.”
Woffenden and Hutchinson said: “We do not agree that on the evidence of vacancies provided they would have been suitable for him or that he would have been considered a strong candidate for them, given his experience.”
Employment lawyer reaction
Spencer Shaw principal solicitor Ian Jones said: "The case primarily highlights how to make an argument on employee losses, especially an assertion that the employee has not done enough to reduce (or mitigate) those losses.
“The employee has an obligation by law to take all reasonable steps to minimise their loss. If the employer believes this obligation has not been met, the burden is on them to show where the employee has failed, not on the employee to show they have taken all reasonable steps.
“In my experience, this burden is often misunderstood. Employers must be mindful that, if the employee has offered a reasonable explanation for their losses, they will need compelling evidence that the employee hasn’t done enough in order to challenge the losses claimed."