Jose MourinhoIf there’s one thing that changes almost as frequently as employment law, it’s football managers…particularly at the latter-day Manchester United!

In April 2014, United parted company with David Moyes, its first manager since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, after less than one year in post and on account of the club’s disappointing season. Moyes’ successor, Louis Van Gaal, appointed in June 2014, lasted just two years before being handed his P45. Now, Van Gaal’s successor, Jose Mourinho, has been dismissed in the third year of his contract, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer installed as Caretaker Manager until the end of the season. After this latest episode in the revolving door saga at Old Trafford, we consider the employment law implications of Mourinho’s sacking.

Jose Mourinho – was he unfairly dismissed?

Mourinho, who was appointed on 27 May 2016, is known for exiting stage left in his third season, which conveniently ensures that he as accrued the necessary two years’ continuous service required for him to lodge an employment tribunal claim for ‘ordinary’ unfair dismissal. Not that such a claim is likely to be that appealing when you consider that the associated compensatory award would be limited to £83,682, which is the statutory cap applicable in this instance (Jose was rumoured to be earning £18m per annum!).

More attractive from a financial perspective might be an ‘automatically’ unfair dismissal claim, e.g. if Mourinho could argue that his dismissal was for health and safety reasons or because he made a protected disclosure. The aforementioned compensatory cap does not apply to claims arising from such dismissals. Nor is there any upper limit on the compensation that could be awarded for claims brought under the Equality Act 2010, although there is no suggestion at this stage that any form of discrimination has played a part in the termination of Mourinho’s employment.

Breach of contract

Breach of contract might be the most obvious claim in the circumstances. In this regard, the decision to dismiss Mourinho part-way through his contract could prove costly in the absence of specific termination provisions relating to failure to achieve set targets. If those provisions are not clear and present then it’s not inconceivable that he could claim payment for the remainder of his contractual term, although he would need to do so by virtue of a civil action in view of the £25,000 limit to the compensation that can be awarded for such claims in the employment tribunal.

This scope for legal action means that Mourinho is well placed to negotiate a much publicised multi-million pound Settlement Agreement, following his ignominious exit from the Theatre of Dreams. However, it needn’t take the salacious details of a high profile dismissal for employers to realise the benefit of ongoing employment law support. At Employee Management Ltd, our HR consultants provide commercially minded employment law advice and bespoke HR services that can actively reduce your organisation’s exposure to litigation. We also offer a comprehensive employment tribunal representation service through which we handle any claims you do receive on your behalf. If you are an employer with a need in any of these areas, please feel free to contact us for a confidential, no-obligation discussion.