A disciplinary process that really did leave a nasty taste
Published 07 October 2020
The change of ownership of a business can be a worrying and uncertain time for any employee.
However, restaurant manager Chanel felt reassured when she met the new owners of the eatery where she worked. She was told not to worry because things would only get better.
It turned out to be a false promise - and working life actually got much worse for Chanel, who had worked for the previous owners for about eight years.
Early into the new owner’s tenure she was told privately that some staff would have to go but her job was safe, because she was a valued manager.
Two long-serving members of staff were subsequently dismissed. A short time afterwards Chanel was informed her hours would have to change and her pay would be cut.
Chanel had previously submitted a flexible working request and had a long-standing arrangement with the former owners, which allowed her to work hours that meant she could provide care for her disabled father.
The area manager advised Chanel not to fight the changes. He wrongly claimed her length of service had not been transferred, so she did not have her old employment rights.
After discussing the situation with a trusted colleague, Chanel decided to submit a formal grievance.
She was fearful and reluctant to do so, but felt that she had no other choice.
The wide-ranging grievance on the grounds of unfair treatment included breach of TUPE regulations and disability discrimination by association.
The area manager was furious. He called Chanel and warned she was making a huge mistake.
He said a disciplinary allegation against her had come to light and it will take precedence, and the grievance will be dealt with after that.
Chanel was informed that the disciplinary allegation was one of a serious data protection breach in that she had disclosed sensitive company information to a third party. Chanel was told that she would be invited to a disciplinary hearing.
The allegation related to the previous boss of the company telling the new owner that he heard some changes were being made to the business and staff were not too happy.
The company said the information disclosed could only have come from Chanel, although the ex-boss did not reveal the source of his information.
Chanel insisted that she had no such conversation with the former proprietor.
Worried Chanel contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre the day before her disciplinary hearing.
The hearing had been postponed and rearranged a number of times previously, so the company refused the change the date.
Chanel said she wanted to clear her name and leave on her terms because she had lost trust in her employer.
At the start of the disciplinary hearing our representative challenged the process, There were fraught exchanges between him and the disciplinary hearing chair and HR advisor.
Our representative asserted that it would be wholly unfair, impractical and illogical to proceed without hearing, investigating and resolving the grievance first.
He argued that given the seriousness of the grievance allegations if it was upheld, or partly upheld, it could have serious implications for the disciplinary process.
The employer’s stance was that the grievance should not be dealt with separately as it was part of the same issue.
The company eventually agreed to adjourn the disciplinary hearing and hear the grievance first.
This allowed an off the record discussion to take place about the best possible outcome for all parties.
It was explained that Chanel had lost trust and confidence in the business. While the company said it wished to move in a different direction, and accepted it could have handled things better.
This led to a discussion about a settlement agreement. After a later period of negotiation an agreement was reached.
As part of that settlement Chanel received a five-figure tax free payment in addition to the wages she was owed and payment of her outstanding annual leave and notice period.
Chanel used the money to help her set-up an independent specialist food store, which has proved to be very successful.
“A reputation built on success”
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