Expert help to find the right solution when an employee went AWOL.
Published 24 May 2023
Rosie admitted the serious disciplinary allegations levelled against her, so she was right to fear the worse.
The warehouse distribution worker was alleged to have gone AWOL and to have made offensive comments about a colleague and her employer.
When notified to attend a disciplinary hearing she was warned a potential outcome was dismissal.
The allegations all stemmed from one incident when Rosie was unable to cope and left work. She later text her manager to ‘rant’ at a workmate and the business.
She was supported by our representative after contacting the Employee Support Centre for help.
Rosie, who had just over three years’ service, explained she was desperate to keep her job. She had recently agreed a flexible working arrangement allowing her to meet her childcare commitments.
Rosie admitted she had acted as alleged, but was adamant it was not deliberate. She explained it was a reaction to being unable to cope with a stressful situation at the time.
Although Rosie admitted the allegations, our representative felt there was significant mitigation in the case, which would mean dismissal would not be a reasonable outcome and could amount to an unfair dismissal.
Key in the case was the fact Rosie had suffered with depression long-term, which meant it could be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
The evidence indicated Rosie was suffering a mental health crisis at the time of the incident.
This was highlighted by our representative alongside the unfairness of the disciplinary investigation when he argued successfully that Rosie should not be sanctioned for what occurred.
Our representative are always keen to gather any evidence that may help an employee’s case prior to a hearing.
In this case it was important to show the employer was aware Rosie had depression, so evidence showing she had raised it previously and had time off as a result of it was crucial.
Return to work interviews, emails and texts sent by Rosie to her manager all helped our representative to demonstrate the employer was aware of her mental health struggles, but had failed to provide any meaningful support and consider the impact of it in relation to the allegations.
Rosie texted her manager the evening before the incident that led to the allegations, to say she was struggling mentally but was scared to take time off because of her sickness record.
The response showed she was effectively told to come in due to staff shortages and that keeping busy would take her mind off it.
Our representative highlighted this to show the lack of support and failure in the employer’s duty of care to a vulnerable employee, which he maintained was the key factor in what subsequently occurred.
Rosie snapped when a colleague berated her about a task. She sought out her manager and told him she could not cope and was going home. He confirmed this in his witness statement and said he tried to persuade her not to go, but she did.
She then sent him a barrage of texts, which in summary were very critical of her colleague and lack of support from the employer.
Our representative told the hearing the evidence supports that Rosie was suffering a mental health crisis in that she felt at breaking point and in need of urgent help. It was fully explained this was due to contributory factors both inside and outside of work.
The hearing was told by our representative that as the employer knew about Rosie’s depression, it could be considered a disability and the allegations are directly related to it, then any form of sanction could amount to disability discrimination.
Our representative also explained that Rosie deeply regretted being involved in a matter that had given the employer cause for concern, apologised for it, had taken learning from it and that what occurred was out of character.
Rosie was later cleared of the allegations and meaningful support was later put in place to help her.