A lorry driver who was dismissed for refusing to wear a face mask on a client site has lost his claim for unfair dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996, which is the main legislation available in the UK to take unfair dismissal claims.
The driver Deimantas Kubilius had been reported to his employer after a visit to a client site, when he refused to wear a face mask, which was a requirement of the client Company in terms of its health and safety rules in dealing with Covid 19. The client also banned the driver from their site.
During the disciplinary process that ensued, the driver was unrepentant saying that it was not a legal requirement to wear a mask and that in any case, he had never left the cab of his truck. After being dismissed for gross misconduct, the employee took a claim to the Employment Tribunal.
The employer outlined that the employee was in breach of their health and safety policies and had not followed reasonable direction in this regard. The employer also felt that trust and confidence in the driver had been lost due to the lack of remorse or understanding of the situation shown by him, and they therefore believed that there was a risk in the future, of the driver failing to follow reasonable directions and to potentially cause reputational damage with other clients.
The Employment Tribunal upheld the decision to dismiss and determined that the driver had been give due process through the employer's disciplinary procedure and an opportunity to appeal the decision, and noted in particular that the driver’s refusal to wear a mask constituted misconduct and the insistence of the driver that he had done nothing wrong had reasonably led to a loss of trust and confidence about future conduct in similar circumstances.