I'll Stay Locked Down Thank You Very Much



The Claimant was a laser operator whose work needed to be carried out on his employer's premises.
UK Employment and HR
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Rodgers v Leeds Laser Cutting Ltd ET1803829/2020

In this case, an employment tribunal held that a Claimant who left his workplace in March 2020 and told his employer that he was going to stay off work until lockdown had eased was not automatically unfairly dismissed when his employer dismissed him a month later.

The Claimant was a laser operator whose work needed to be carried out on his employer's premises. After he had been absent from work for nearly a month, the Claimant was dismissed by his employer. The Claimant claimed that this dismissal was automatically unfair as he was protected by the provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996 which provide employees with protection from dismissal for exercising their rights to leave the workplace and take steps to protect themselves where they reasonably believe there is serious and imminent danger. The Claimant had a young baby and a child with sickle-cell anaemia and he was worried about infecting them with Covid-19.

The judge noted that while conditions pertaining to Covid-19 could potentially amount to circumstances of serious and imminent danger, they did not do so in this case. The employer was found to have implemented hand washing and social distancing procedures (which were the government advised precautions at the time) and it was held that the Claimant did not take any steps to avoid the danger or raise any concerns with his manager before deciding to leave work.

An interesting case and very much a fact dependent decision. Also, perhaps not one where we should really feel too sympathetic for Mr Rodgers as he was found to have cheekily breached self-isolation guidance to drive a friend to hospital the day after he left work.

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