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Unfair dismissal claim by deceased employee’s estate

22 November 2012

In an unusual case, the EAT ruled that the dependants of a deceased worker could claim the loss of his death-in-service benefit, despite the fact that he had been dismissed five days before his death.  

In the case, Fox v British Airways Plc, 44-year old Gary Fox was dismissed on the grounds that he was no longer physically capable of performing his duties. He died five days later. His father began proceedings for unfair dismissal and discrimination but running alongside this was the issue of his death-in-service benefit. Had he died while still employed, his estate would have been entitled to receive £85,000. On a strict interpretation of the circumstances, the estate was no longer entitled to recover this sum.

Initially, a tribunal dismissed the family’s claim, saying that they could only recover £350 for lost life insurance cover. On appeal, the EAT (Employment Appeals Tribunal) disagreed with this ruling. They found that, where the employee died shortly after dismissal, the loss amounted to the full sum payable on death and not just the premium required to ensure the appropriate insurance cover.

The case has now been referred back to the tribunal for a ruling on the merits of the unfair dismissal and discrimination claim.

As always, if you need commercial and pragmatic employment law advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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Matthew Clayton MA LLM (Cantab), CIPP/E
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