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Estate agency wins unfair dismissal claim brought by bankrupt employee

Anyone working in financial services will be aware of the requirement for individuals carrying out regulated roles to be "fit and proper". Clearly this is going to include solid personal finances and demonstrable honesty and integrity. The EAT decided that an estate agent who was dismissed because he became bankrupt and did not tell his employer was fairly dismissed. 

Mr Pubbi was employed as a financial consultant by Your Move, an estate agent which also offered mortgages and other insurance products. Your Move was an appointed representative for First Complete Limited, who were authorised by the FCA. He fell into financial difficulties while on unpaid sick leave. He did not tell his employer of his bankruptcy and, because they were regulated by the FCA, they took this very seriously and dismissed him for gross misconduct. Mr Pubbi argued that this was unfair because he was not under a contractual obligation to notify them and there was no mention of this in the company's handbook. The EAT decided that, despite this lack of an express obligation upon him, "he knew, or should have appreciated, that it (his employer) would regard his bankruptcy as a serious matter, and would have expected him to disclose it, and that he had deliberately not done so". The bankruptcy called into question his financial soundness and his failure to disclose it to his employer called into question his honesty. Therefore, the dismissal for gross misconduct was fair. 

While some might say that it is obviously reasonable for a regulated employer to impose a high sanction on an employee behaving in such a manner even in the absence of express contractual provisions, the situation may not have been so clear cut for a non-regulated employer or an employee in a different type of role. As such this case is a salutary reminder of the sensibility, for any employer, of putting express provisions into contracts and policies to avoid ambiguity and uncertainty about an employee's conduct obligations. But particularly if the employer wants to impose an equivalent standard of "fitness and propriety" to employees over and above those specifically obliged to meet such a standard. 

An employment tribunal has concluded that Your Move did not unfairly dismiss a former financial consultant after he failed to disclose bankruptcy.