Aftala Norfolk Ltd (t/a Papa John’s Pizza) and another v Read UKEAT/0233/18/JOJ

Appeal against the ET’s finding that the First and Second Respondents were jointly and severally liable for awards relating to the Claimant’s unfair dismissal, and that there was no conflict of interest arising from the parties’ legal representation. Appeal allowed in part.

The Claimant, who was dismissed by the First Respondent, also worked occasionally for the Second Respondent, which is a separate legal entity from the First Respondent and operates a separate franchise business under the same trading name. On the Claimant's claim for unfair dismissal, the ET found that she had been treated unfavourably as a result of her pregnancy, and she had not received holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage; and, in the absence of a contract of employment with the First Respondent, it made an award in respect of the dismissal, subsequent injury to feelings and holiday pay against the First and Second Respondents jointly and severally. The Respondents appealed on the grounds that the ET should not have held them jointly and severally liable, and also that the ET erred in finding that there was no prejudice arising from the fact that a representative of the First Respondent had had a preliminary meeting, at an early stage in the proceedings, with the Claimant's solicitor.

The EAT held that the ET clearly erred in law in holding both Respondents jointly and severally liable without seeking to explain precisely how an obligation arose on the part of the Second Respondent; accordingly, it directed that the sums found payable by both Respondents would be payable solely by the First Respondent. As to the second ground, the EAT considered that no unfairness resulted, since (i) the solicitor had no recollection of the brief pro bono meeting, (ii) he was not subsequently instructed by that client, and (iii) the Respondent was unable to point to any matter which was confidential and/or gave the Claimant an unfair advantage.

Published: 28/08/2020 19:53