An employee facing the threat of dismissal for poor punctuality will have severely tested the patience of any reasonable employer.
But, when Charlie found himself in that position he was right to feel victimised and aggrieved.
What made matters worse is that Charlie, a project controller, was on a final disciplinary warning at the time. It was issued six months earlier following a physical altercation with a colleague.
The new allegation of being late on just two occasions, if proven, could lead to dismissal.
Charlie was convinced that if he was sacked it would be an unfair dismissal.
He was invited to a disciplinary hearing to face an allegation of breaching company policy in failing to notify his manager of his lateness on ‘repeated occasions’.
Worried Charlie was determined not to make the same mistake he made last time when he represented himself at his previous disciplinary hearing.
This time Charlie contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
Charlie discussed his case at length with one of our representatives, who was keen to understand the reasons for the two lates and company policy for dealing with such matters.
It was explained by Charlie that he had unexpectedly started suffering seizures, usually in the morning. He was undergoing medical investigation to determine the cause.
Charlie said he felt confused and embarrassed, so blamed traffic on one occasion and feeling ill and sleeping in for the other late. He was booking days off work to secretly attend medical appointments.
Our representative asked about his punctuality up until that point. Charlie explained he was never late.
Prior to the disciplinary hearing, our representative requested a range of information from the employer, which he thought may help Charlie’s case.
It included full details of all lateness in the last 12 months and company policy for dealing with lateness.
Before the disciplinary hearing our representative asked Charlie to obtain a letter from the doctors treating him.
Charlie got the letter, which explained he was being seen by a neurologist to determine the cause of his seizures.
It can often be very difficult for employees to be honest and open about personal matters that inevitably impact on their job. Our representatives are experts in supporting an employee in such a situation.
At the disciplinary hearing our representative pointed out that in response to his request for a lateness policy, the company confirmed it did not have one.
Therefore, Charlie did not breach any formal policy in failing to notify his manager that he was going to be late
The employer provided its disciplinary policy, which it said is used to address punctuality concerns.
Our representative highlighted that the introduction section of the policy said its aim was to correct behaviour and encourage improvement and not just to sanction an employee, which is in keeping with guidance in the ACAS Code of Practice.
The hearing was told the suggested informal approach to potential disciplinary matters would have been appropriate in Charlie’s case.
Cited in support of this was the evidence of Charlie’s exemplary timekeeping, supported by the fact there were only two occasions – those in question - of lateness in the last year.
The lack of a specific lateness policy detailing what was unacceptable timekeeping was used by our representative to maintain it would be grossly unfair to punish Charlie with no clear guidance in place
The disciplinary policy also stated a disciplinary investigation to establish the facts, including an investigation meeting, will always take place before a disciplinary hearing. It was pointed out it did not happen in this case.
Our representative explained the ongoing investigations into Charlie’s seizures and provided a copy of the medical letter.
The hearing was told that it was an extremely difficult and unsettling time for Charlie. He deeply regretted not being open because he wrongly perceived how he would be viewed, and he apologised for it.
The allegation was dismissed, and the company offered Charlie its full support.
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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. 0333 772 0611