Julie Duane, Solicitor Advocate at CG Professional.
A Tribunal has recently ruled in the case of Jones v Fly Lite Air Sports Limited 2018, that an employee was unfairly dismissed and awarded £19,000 despite calling his boss a twat.
The employee in question had been with the business 11 years and on or around 30th July 2017 he notified the Company Director that the aircraft he was required to fly required its 50 hours service. Despite being informed that these checks would be carried out that day, the following day it became apparent that this had not occurred.
The employee, therefore, approached the Company Director who was accompanied by a client at the time and a dispute arose between the two of them. Following the dispute, the employee went to walk away from the Company Director and called him a “twat”. As a result of this comment, the Company Director became confrontational with the employee and said, “bollocks don’t call me a twat” and threw a cup of tea at the employee. The employee stated, “don’t say bollocks to me or I will fucking hit you!” The employee subsequently made it clear that he wasn’t intending to hit the Company Director.
The Company Director then sought to tell the employee that he didn’t want him to board the aircraft and told the employee to pack his stuff and leave. The employee believing that he had been dismissed, collected his belongings and left the company property on his work desk. The employee did not return to work and shortly thereafter on the 23rd August, he received a letter inviting him to a disciplinary hearing. On the premise that the employee believed he had been dismissed, he did not attend the disciplinary hearing and was therefore dismissed without notice for gross misconduct.
The Tribunal concluded, due to the nature of the Company Director’s comments and the fact that nobody informed the employee that he was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing, it was reasonable and proportionate for the employee to consider himself dismissed on 1st August. Although the employee’s behaviour may have amounted to gross misconduct due to the Company failing to follow an appropriate process and as the employee was dismissed on the spot it the employee was awarded the sum of £19,000.
Matters to Consider
Employers should, therefore, be mindful that regardless of the severity of allegations which may be levied against individuals it is essential to follow the appropriate processes. Employers should, therefore, ensure the following: –
- Regardless of the severity of an offence or the provocation caused by an employee, employers should not dismiss an employee on the spot;
- Employers should also be mindful not to state wording to employees which could be misconstrued or interpreted as a dismissal;
- Where an individual is compromised as a result of an altercation with an employee, they should not conduct any part of the disciplinary process and should be kept separate from this in order to ensure that an impartial decision can be reached; and
- Employees should be informed of whether they are being suspended from the premises following an incident as oppose being told to pack their bags and leave the site as this could have negative connotations for the employer.
If you have any questions regarding the disciplinary process or are concerned about potential tribunal proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the CG Professional team who will be more than happy to help.