Employers should be less worried about precedents for dismissing staff and have the confidence to treat cases on their merits, it was claimed today.

It follows a recent controversial Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling.

Tim Lang, partner and head of employment at Black Country law firm George Green, says employers can take into account circumstances around a breach by an employee of terms and conditions in determining whether or not to dismiss them.

"This ruling takes pressure off employers to be bound by apparent precedents set in treating staff and gives them more leeway in allowing them to decide on each case according to the actions of each individual," said Mr Lang, based in George Green's Cradley Heath offices.

The case which determined the latest ruling centres around two joiners in Liverpool sacked for moonlighting.

An employment tribunal ruled as another employee had previously not been dismissed, the joiners' dismissals were held to be unfair, but reduced compensation by 75 per cent for their contributory conduct.

However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found two differences in circumstances - the earlier employee admitted guilt, the joiners had lied; and the previous employee had 30 years' service, while the two new employees had only recently completed apprenticeships.

The EAT ruled it was reasonable for the employer to regard these differences as distinguishing features and impose different sanctions.