|Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust|
|Written by Rachel Billen|
Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
(1) Breach of contract
Mr Edwards was a consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon. He was found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed without notice. As the upper limit on employment tribunal claims is limited to £65,300 and £25,000 for wrongful dismissal, he brought a claim for breach of contract in the High Court worth more than £4 million. He claimed that the Trust failed to follow its disciplinary procedure which was described as being contractually binding (i.e. part of his contract of employment) before dismissing him. He argued that the Trust:
The Court of Appeal found that where a breach of a contractual disciplinary procedure leads to an incorrect finding of misconduct, which goes on to prevent the employee from securing alternative employment, then additional damages can be awarded to reflect the loss of income sustained as a result of the breach of contract on the basis that he was unable to obtain future employment as an NHS Consultant. Mr Edwards’ case will now go forward to a full hearing to consider his allegations in full.
It is understood that the Trust is considering whether to appeal the judgment. Pending that appeal, there is now precedent allowing the Courts the ability to award large sums to high earning staff, if a contractual disciplinary or capability procedure is not followed, although it should be remembered that Mr Edwards still has to establish that his losses flow from the breach and are reasonably foreseeable. In light of this judgment, NHS Trusts and other public sector employers will need to ensure that any contractual policies are followed closely, as a failure to do so may lead to a substantial claim for loss of career, reputation etc.