Mrs Kuteh commenced employment with Gravesham NHS Trust on 1st April 2007. She worked as a band 5 Junior Sister in the Intensive therapy Unit. Mrs Kuteh is a committed Christian. In her role, she was responsible for carrying out assessments of patients who were due to undergo surgery. She used a pro-forma document to carry out these assessments and was required to make a simple enquiry as to the patient’s religion and note the response.
In March and April 2016, patients had complained that Mrs Kutah had initiated unwanted religious conversations with them. On 11 April 2016, the Matron spoke to Mrs Kuteh to express her concern that she had been having unwanted religious discussions with patients. Mrs Kutah assured the Matron that she would not discuss religion with patients again.
There were two further matters of concern in May. The first, a patient complained she was given a bible and told Mrs Kuteh would pray for her. The second, involved a patient complaining Mrs Kuteh was preaching to her and made her feel uncomfortable.
Mrs Kuteh was suspended on 10 June 2016 and was informed in writing of the three allegations which were to be investigated:
· Repeated misconduct in that she failed to follow a reasonable management instruction that was discussed with her on 11 April 2016.
· Inappropriate behaviour/conduct that involved unwanted discussions on the topic of religion which resulted in verbal complaints from patients (on 16 May, 31 May and 3 June 2016).
· Breach of para. 20.7 of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (“NMC”) Code in relation to making sure that she did not express her personal beliefs (including political, religious or moral beliefs) to people in an inappropriate way.
Following an investigation and disciplinary hearing, she was dismissed with immediate effect. Mrs Kuteh appealed but her appeal was not upheld.
Mrs Kuteh brought a claim for unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal.
Employment Tribunal Decision
The employment tribunal dismissed Mrs Kuteh’s claim alleging unfair dismissal. They found she was dismissed for the potentially fair reason of her conduct and the investigation and disciplinary hearing had both been entirely fair and reasonable.
The tribunal concluded the overall sanction imposed, that of dismissal, was within the band of reasonable responses in light of the employer’s view that the incidents amounted to gross misconduct.
The EAT and The Court of Appeal both dismissed Mrs Kuteh’s appeals.