Escaping unscathed from a ‘car crash’ of a disciplinary process
As a former trade union rep Stan is probably one of the last people who you would have expected to be subjected to an unfair disciplinary process.
Having represented numerous colleagues while working in the transport industry during the 1990s he continued to act as an ‘unofficial rep’ when he started work as a HGV driver.
In exercising their right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague at a disciplinary hearing a number of employees, aware of Stan’s background, had asked him to be act as a companion at formal meetings.
Management would also sometimes turn to Stan, who was approaching an age when he was thinking of retirement, for help to resolve some workplace issues.
When Stan contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help he feared the worst.
When he met with our representative to discuss the case Stan explained that he believed the new owners of the company felt threatened by his role and perceived influence and wanted him out.
Stan had been notified to attend a disciplinary hearing to face an allegation of careless driving. He denied the allegation.
In the months prior to the allegation being made against him Stan had raised a number of concerns with his manager about the safety and maintenance of vehicles, which it was felt was putting the health and safety of drivers at risk.
The concerns were ignored, so Stan raised them directly with the owner of the company via email.
The following day he was called into his manager’s office. The manager was furious because the owner had forwarded the email to him for him to deal with.
Stan maintained he felt he had no choice as nothing was being done to address the issue. His manager insisted he was doing all that he could.
During the meeting the manager quizzed Stan about an accident he had been involved in with another car over a month earlier.
Stan explained the other driver had admitted it was his fault. His manager said it was Stan’s second accident in a year, which had resulted in serious damage to company vehicles.
He then queried Stan’s health, his fitness to drive and when he planned to retire before informing Stan that he was being suspended from work for careless driving.
Stan claimed he was the victim of a witch-hunt for raising the concerns, and that this was evident because the drivers in both accidents cited had accepted blame.
He immediately raised a formal grievance, which he submitted to the owner of the company. This time he got an immediate reply, which said that the grievance would be dealt with after the disciplinary hearing.
Stan felt this was unfair but felt powerless, which is when he contacted Castle Associates.
Our representative contacted the owner and said that as Stan’s grievance was on the grounds of unfavourable treatement for making a whistle-blowing disclosure if it was upheld it would have serious implications for the disciplinary process.
It was argued by our representative that in the circumstances it would be sensible and fair to hear it first and suspend the disciplinary process in accordance with section 46 of the ACAS Code of Practice. Following email and telephone correspondence, the owner eventually agreed to hear the grievance first.
At the grievance hearing our representative supported Stan in presenting his case and arguing that the nature and timing of the disciplinary allegations amounted to unfavourable treatement of Stan for making a protected disclosure.
It was a frank discussion and to the owner’s credit he was fair and reasonable. He agreed to stop the disciplinary process and personally address the concerns Stan had raised.
The owner was true to his word. Stan, a keen golfer which was something he had in common with our representative, retired to Spain two years later which has led to a significant improvement in his gold handicap.
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