We acted for the claimant under a damages based agreement (commonly known as a “no win no fee” agreement) at a recent final hearing which took place at Manchester Employment Tribunal. Our client had alleged that he had been unfairly dismissed after a number of years’ service for his employer. The facts of the case are a cautionary tale for any employer seeking to dismiss an employee as a result of suspicions that he or she is not being truthful as to the reasons for their absence.
In this case our client was involved in a car accident which resulted in serious injuries to his neck and back. As a result of this he was absent from work and upon the day he returned he was called into a meeting with the Managing Director and advised that his employment was to be terminated. The Managing Director had jumped to conclusions that our client had not given the correct reason for his absence from work, despite having fit notes from his G.P. for the period of time in question. He was particularly suspicious that the pain in our client’s neck and back had arisen several days after the car accident. It later transpired that he also believed that our client had subsequently gone on a day trip to the Museum of Science and Industry and carried out activities inconsistent with his injuries on that trip, while signed off work and receiving statutory sick pay.
The suspicions regarding the day trip were not put to our client at the disciplinary hearing and no process was followed prior to the decision to dismiss him. The tribunal concluded that, among other factors, the failure to notify our client that he would be required to attend a disciplinary hearing, the failure to give him a chance to respond to the allegations against him and the identity of the appeal officer (the Managing Director who had made the original decision to dismiss) made the dismissal unfair from a legal perspective.
Our client was awarded a sum of over £17,000 which was reflective of the loss he had suffered as a result of the actions of his former employer. As the father of a young family, this compensation was very welcome given that he had had been unable to find new work following his dismissal.
Employers concerned by this judgment should note that it could have been easily avoided by following a fair disciplinary process. As part of this the investigation would have uncovered the fact that one of the key pieces of evidence, a photograph taken at the Museum of Science of Industry, had in fact related to a much earlier visit when our client was not suffering from any back or neck condition. Had an individual other than the Managing Director carried out the appeal the conclusions jumped to by this individual could also have been avoided. The case therefore illustrates the importance of following a fair process and reaching a reasonable conclusion based upon the available facts rather than making a decision to dismiss and seeking to justify it at a later point.
For more information on how we can defend you at an employment tribunal call us on 0175 321 6399.