piBlawg

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Johnson v Unisys revisited: Monk v Cann Hall Primary School and Essex County Council [2013] EWCA Civ 826

 
Mrs Monk was made redundant from her position as an administrative assistant at the First Respondent’s primary school, with effect from 31st August 2008. On 10th July, however, she was required to clear her desk before being publicly escorted from the premises. She brought a claim for psychiatric injuries. Her claim was struck out on the basis that it fell within the Johnson exclusion area. Since the House of Lords decision in Johnson v Unisys Ltd ([2001] UKHL 13) an employee may not recover damages at common law for loss caused by the fact or the manner of dismissal.
 
The appeal turned on the date of Mrs Monk’s dismissal. If her exclusion on 10th July constituted her dismissal, the manner in which it was carried out was probably too closely related to the dismissal itself to escape the Johnson exclusion area. If, on the other hand, it was merely an incident occurring during the period of her employment, which terminated on 31st August, the Court found it difficult to see how it could have been sufficiently closely related to the dismissal to fall within the exclusion area ([23]).
 
The Court relied on assertions made by the Council in contemporaneous correspondence that it did not intend to dismiss her on 10th July and the fact that it continued to pay Mrs Monk her salary and redundancy pay until 31st August in determining that it was arguable that her contract of employment continued until the later date ([27]).
 
Mrs Monk was therefore granted permission to amend her particulars of claim in order to contend that her employment was terminated on 31st August 2008 and her appeal against striking out of her claim was allowed.
 
Interestingly, from the point of view of future case law, the Court identified but left open the question of whether personal injuries sustained in the course of negligently escorting an employee off work premises would be regarded as independent of the dismissal (at [22]). Lord Dyson in Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust ([2011] UKSC 58 at [52]) made clear that the Johnson exclusion area does not impinge on any cause of action which is independent of a dismissal. Given these comments, it is likely that the courts would allow such claims to proceed.
 
Lord Faulks and Marc Rivalland of 1 Chancery Lane represented the Respondents.  
 
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