Finding an agreeable resolution when strained working relationships lead to disciplinary action.
Published 30 March 2022
When retail supervisor Pippa faced a desperate fight to save her job after 19 years’ service she admitted doing wrong, but was desperate to avoid the sack.
It was made clear to our representative during an off the record conversation that Pippa was very unpopular among staff, and there was no way back for her.
That conversation followed a disciplinary hearing in which Pippa faced allegations of harassment of a colleague, threatening and aggressive behaviour in the five-year period prior to the hearing, rude email communication to management and insubordination
Pippa vehemently denied the harassment of a colleague and threatening and aggressive behaviour allegations. She admitted sending rude emails to management and insubordination.
It seemed clear to Pippa from the moment she was suspended from work that she was going to be dismissed whether it was fair or not.
It is often the case that employers level allegations against an employee, but then fail to provide sufficient information to support them as advised by the ACAS Code of Practice.
In this case the allegations of harassment of a colleague and threatening and aggressive behaviour lacked crucial details to enable Pippa to respond.
The witness statements essentially said she was aggressive, threatening, not a nice person and made them afraid.
There were no specific details of incidents to support allegations, no dates or rough dates and no clear or detailed descriptions of Pippa’s alleged actions, conduct and behaviour.
The employer provided copies of the emails considered rude and the insubordination referred to Pippa going shopping in the store while suspended.
Our representative supported Pippa at the disciplinary hearing after she contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre
At the hearing our representative presented Pippa’s case and dealt with each allegation.
He argued the allegations of harassing a colleague and threatening and aggressive behaviour lacked sufficient details to enable Pippa to respond. He maintained in the circumstances it would be unfair to pursue the allegations without providing further information.
Our representative made it clear Pippa was keen and willing to respond if provided with sufficient information. However, in the current circumstances all she could say was she did not act in the manner alleged.
The disciplinary hearing heard Pippa accepted on reflection her emails were rude. Her regret, sincere apology and appropriate learning taken from the incident was made clear.
The emails were sent to management towards the end of her six-month period of suspension. Our representative explained it was out of frustration in what was an unreasonable time to be suspended, and the messages were sent after being told the business would do things which it then did not. This was evident and pointed out to the disciplinary hearing chair in the email exchanges.
During the unfair and prolonged period of suspension the hearing was told Pippa’s mental health had suffered, which inevitably had an adverse impact on her actions.
Pippa admitted going into the store to shop while suspended. It was to buy an older relative a present for a landmark birthday.
Our representative said Pippa received basic pay on suspension and wanted to use her discount card to save money. It was said at worst it was a genuine error of judgement done in a bid to save money while facing an uncertain future.
During a break in the hearing Pippa said to our representative she no longer wanted to work for the employer and wanted to leave.
Our representative initiated a without prejudice discussion with the employer. The HR manager welcomed the discussion. She was clear working relationships had broken down, had noted the points raised in response to the allegations and was prepared to work with our representative and Pippa to reach a resolution.
It led to the business and Pippa reaching a settlement agreement. Pippa was able to leave on agreed terms with payment that included a respectable five-figure tax-free lump sum along with all other contractual payments.