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Case Studies

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Expert help needed when work problem becomes a family problem

Published 20 April 2022

Family bust-ups and fallouts can be particularly difficult, add work to the mix and things can get even worse.

Chelsea worked in a pub run by her parents before they decided to fire her following a complaint.

It was said to be the final straw for her parents after a ‘long list’ of complaints about her attitude and conduct.

She was dismissed after a family having a meal in the pub, alleged they overheard her say to another member of staff that she wished their young child would shut up crying. Chelsea denied the allegation.

The employee who Chelsea is said to have made the comment to was not asked to provide a witness statement.

However, she was sacked following a disciplinary hearing chaired by her father.

Chelsea, who had worked in the pub for just over two years, was furious because she felt the decision was unfair.

She asked her mum to step in and sort it out, but she refused and said she was not getting involved. This then led to a breakdown in communication with neither parent speaking to Chelsea.

She contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

When our representative discussed the case with Chelsea it was clear a fair disciplinary process had not been conducted.

Evidence referred to in the disciplinary outcome letter, and cited as justification for the decision, had not been provided to Chelsea prior to the disciplinary hearing.

This was crucial, because it was claimed the decision to sack her was unavoidable as she had been warned ‘countless times’ about her conduct. Examples given included turning up for work drunk, swearing at customers and stealing.

Chelsea admitted she did once turn up for work with a hangover, but denied all other allegations levelled against her.

On behalf of Chelsea our representative submitted a disciplinary appeal against the decision.

The grounds for appeal were unfair dismissal and that the process was not fair and did not adhere to the ACAS Code of Practice.

If the appeal was successful Chelsea wanted to be reinstated.

But with her father having dismissed her and her mother not wanting to get involved, getting what she wanted was not going to be easy.

An independent HR advisor was appointed to chair the disciplinary appeal hearing.

Prior to the hearing our representative requested additional information, which he believed may help Chelsea’s case.

It included a copy of the complaint from the family that led to disciplinary action being taken in the first place and evidence of the ‘long list’ of previous complaints against Chelsea. It was confirmed that none of that evidence was actually available.

It emerged the family complaint was made verbally to a member of staff who then passed it on.

Our representative also requested copies of the disciplinary and performance management policies.

Being acutely aware of Chelsea’s desired outcome, and how difficult it would be to achieve, our representative knew he would also have to take on the role of a conciliator.

At the appeal hearing it was fairly straightforward for our representative to demonstrate the decision and the process were unfair.

It was highlighted with reference to the lack of evidence to support the allegations and to the fact Chelsea could not have feasibly remained in her role if the previous allegations had substance given there were established policies to deal with such serious allegations.

In discussions with Chelsea our representative made it clear that a lot of hard work was going to be needed from all parties if she were to return to her role.

The HR advisor recognised this also and after overturning the decision collaborated with our representative to bring the parties together.

It led to workplace mediation with a professional mediator brought in to manage it.

It proved successful, and Chelsea did eventually return to her role.

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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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