Tarmac boss who suffers from dementia wins an unfair dismissal case

Tarmac company boss, 89, who suffers from dementia, wins an unfair dismissal case brought by his managing director who claimed he had been made redundant

  •  Andrew Robson claimed his boss who has dementia had made him redundant 
  • But boss Eric Roberts said he had never made anyone redundant during tribunal
  • Judge concluded Mr Robson had resigned from his £50,000-a-year MD role 

A tarmac company boss who suffers from dementia has won an unfair dismissal case brought by his managing director who claimed he had been made redundant by the business owner.

Andrew Robson claimed 89-year-old Eric Roberts – who set up the tarmac business in 1956 – had made him redundant after accusing him of ‘running the business into the ground’ during a downturn in trade. 

However a tribunal judge rejected this and concluded Mr Robson had resigned from his £50,000-a-year MD role.

The tribunal in Bodmin, Cornwall, heard that Mr Roberts had been diagnosed with dementia some months before Mr Robson was promoted to managing director of Eric Roberts Contractors Ltd, based in St Columb, Cornwall, in October 2019.  

 Andrew Robson claimed 89-year-old Eric Roberts had made him redundant but a tribunal judge rejected this. Mr Roberts set up Eric Roberts Contractors Ltd (company van pictured), based in St Columb, Cornwall, in 1956

Mr Roberts said at a meeting in January 2021 there was a conversation about health and safety issues and filling in extra potholes for no added cost – but he was not criticising anyone’s work – and these were ‘suggestions and not orders’.

But Mr Robson later led Mr Roberts into a room for a private conversation and told him: ‘If you’re not happy with the way I am running the business, I’ll go.’

Mr Roberts said: ‘He immediately said if you aren’t happy with the way I am running the business, I’ll go. I’ll take the van in lieu of the money you owe me.

‘He kept talking and wouldn’t let me get a word in edgeways. I was in shock and didn’t really know what was going on.’

Mr Roberts described how the managing direction then asked the office manager to come into the room to take notes before going on to accuse the boss of making him redundant.

He continued: ‘I wouldn’t even know how to make somebody redundant. I have never in my 65 years made anyone redundant and I certainly didn’t want Andrew to leave as I didn’t have anyone else to fill his role as MD.’  

Mr Roberts said the next day Mr Robson asked him to sign a document – which he did without reading.

However it was only later that he discovered it was a redundancy letter.

Mr Roberts said: ‘I did not type this letter nor would I know how to work out a redundancy calculation. I am an 89-year-old man and am unable to use the computer and/or the internet. 

A tribunal judge concluded Mr Robson had resigned from his £50,000-a-year MD role at Eric Roberts Contractors Ltd

‘I regularly sign papers and documents for all the team and had no queries as to what I was signing and regrettably I almost never read what I was signing. I trusted the Claimant like I did everyone else.

‘Following the Claimant’s last day I discovered that he had arranged his final payment through our payroll clerk and also a redundancy payment and taken the company van as payment in lieu of the ‘bonus’ he had believed he was owed. The company van was worth in excess of £25,000 at the time.

‘I did not dismiss the Claimant. He was completely in control of the meeting in which he announced that he was leaving the MD role. I am still not sure to this day exactly how he came to the conclusion that I wanted him to step down or leave the company.’     

Mr Roberts’ lawyer Terry Falcao suggested to Mr Robson that he had taken him out for a private conversation to ‘isolate him’ from the other staff in the meeting – an allegation he denied.

Mr Robson said: ‘I asked Eric Roberts what the issue was. He told me he did not like the way I was running the business, I was running the business into the ground.’

But Mr Falcao said it was inconceivable Mr Roberts was sacking the man who had increased the company’s profits by sixfold saying: ‘It does not make sense.’ 

The employment judge described the incident as ‘a very unusual set of facts’ but said he found the evidence of Mr Roberts, who built up the family business, as ‘credible and compelling’.

Mr Robson’s claim for unfair dismissal was dismissed and he now faces a costs order.

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