UK: Employee Unfairly Dismissed for Failure to Install App on Personal Phone

In a recent case, Alsnih v. Al Quds Al-Arabi Publishing & Advertising, the employment tribunal ruled that a journalist was unfairly dismissed for refusing to install a work-related app on her personal phone. The app was considered intrusive, and the journalist argued that it hindered her ability to separate work and personal life. The case raises important considerations for employers regarding technology use and employment status.


The claimant worked as an Online News Editor for the respondent newspaper, initially considered to be a freelancer by the respondent, but later determined to be an employee. The respondent introduced a work-tracking app called Viber to streamline article submissions and prevent duplication. While installation was initially voluntary, the claimant was asked to use Viber due to concerns about duplicated articles.

The claimant objected to installing Viber on her personal phone, citing disruptions from constant messages. She requested a work phone or app installation on her laptop as alternatives but this request was denied, and her access to work systems was subsequently blocked. She raised grievances of bullying, harassment, and race discrimination, before the employment relationship was eventually terminated.


The tribunal deemed the claimant’s refusal to use the Viber app as 'conduct' that could be a potentially fair reason for dismissal. However, it ruled the dismissal unfair, as no reasonable employer would dismiss an employee for refusing an intrusive app on their personal phone. The tribunal found potential alternative solutions existed, such as providing a work phone or installing the app on a laptop.

The dismissal was also procedurally unfair, with no prior investigation, disciplinary hearing, or warnings. The employer's mistaken belief that the claimant was self-employed contributed to the lack of proper procedures.

Reinstatement was not ordered due to a breakdown in trust, and compensation of nearly £20,000 was awarded for unfair dismissal. An additional £12,000 was granted for breach of contract, unpaid holiday pay, and unlawful deductions from wages.

Key Takeaways

  • Clarify Employment Status: Employers must correctly determine the employment status of workers to ensure proper dismissal procedures are followed. Misclassifying employees can lead to unfair dismissal claims and increased compensation.
  • Explore Alternatives: When employees resist using technology, employers should consider alternative solutions, such as providing work devices or installing apps on work laptops. This can help address resistance while maintaining a reasonable work-life balance.
  • Respect Work-Life Boundaries: Employers should be mindful of how work-related technology impacts employees' personal lives. Requiring employees to monitor notifications outside regular working hours can blur the line between work and personal time, potentially leading to objections.
  • Right to Disconnect: Employers should stay informed about potential future legislation related to a "right to disconnect." Some countries and regions are considering laws that restrict contacting employees outside of normal working hours to protect work-life balance.
  • International Trends: Employers with an international presence should be aware of varying regulations related to technology use and work-life balance. Several EU member states have already implemented legislation or guidance in this area.

In summary, this case underscores the importance of understanding employment status, considering alternative technology solutions, and respecting employees' work-life boundaries to avoid unfair dismissal claims and maintain a harmonious work environment. It also highlights the potential future development of a legal right to disconnect from work-related technology.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.