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A dream ending to a disciplinary mess

Published 05 August 2020

Whatever the reason employees will often know when their time with an employer is coming to an end as the signs can be very clear beforehand.

For shop manager Gina it’s no exaggeration to say it really was for a rubbish reason.

At a disciplinary hearing she faced allegations of failing to clear rubbish from the street and alleyway outside the terraced clothes shop where she worked and of sending inappropriate emails.

Gina’s problem started with the appointment of a new area manager. She informed Gina at the first meeting they had that the shop was a mess, and that it would be an ideal place to work for a friend of hers who had moved nearby.

In the following months Gina faced repeated criticism. Complaints included poor display of items, the untidy exterior appearance and poor grammar and spelling in emails.

Gina took on board the criticism about the displays and emails. She disputed that it was her job to clean the high street and alleyway. Gina was told it is part of her job description.

Later Gina was put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) by the area manager. It was said to be part of the performance management process.

Furious Gina felt it was unfair and that it was being used as an excuse to eventually dismiss her.

The PIP contained no clear objectives. Instead the document read as a personal critique of Gina, including comments about her ‘unsuitable clothing’ and tone of voice.

Gina felt she was being treated unfairly, expressed her view to the area manager, but it only made things worse.

Aggrieved Gina eventually raised a formal grievance. The grievance was heard, investigated and rejected.

Following this Gina was notified that she was required to attend a disciplinary hearing.

The allegation was failing to follow an instruction and complete tasks in line with the PIP. This was in failing to keep the area outside of the shop tidy and making a grammatical mistake in an email after being warned previously.

Frustrated Gina considered resigning before she contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

When Gina spoke to our representative she made it clear she wanted to leave. She had not yet secured alternative employment.

Prior to Gina’s disciplinary hearing our representative requested additional information from the employer. It included the performance management policy, job description, all documentation relating to performance reviews and the PIP, employee handbook, Gina’s job description and evidence of the inappropriate emails.

Not all of the information was provided and this was highlighted in support of Gina’s case.

The employer did not have an established performance management policy and one was not documented in the employee handbook. It was asserted that without such a policy the ‘performance management’ process was open to abuse and manipulation as witnessed in Gina’s case.

It was pointed out that there was nothing in Gina’s job description to indicate that cleaning the street outside of the shop was part of her agreed duties.

The two internal emails provided as evidence of inappropriate emails included one in which Gina did not use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence and another where she missed a full stop and merged two sentences.

Our representative told the hearing that the allegations cannot reasonably be considered disciplinary matters or concerns that any reasonable employer would deal with using a performance management policy.

The strained working relationship with the area manager and unfair treatment of Gina was discussed at length.

Our representative initiated a discussion about a settlement agreement, the details of which were later agreed.

It meant that Gina, who had worked at the shop eight years, left with an agreement that included a five-figure tax free lump sum, payment of her notice period and for her outstanding leave.

Rather than pursue a new job Gina later opened her own nail salon, which had been a long-held dream.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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