The sickening feeling caused by an unfair disciplinary process
Published 23 October 2019
When Eve was dismissed after a serious accident at work it really did add insult to injury.
The cash and carry worker slipped on a spillage and injured her back. She was off work long-term and later diagnosed with depression.
Eve, who had worked for the company for more than 10 years, had been on sick leave for nearly four months when she was visited at her home by her manager for what he said was a welfare visit. He enquired if she planned to sue the company.
Eve was shocked by the question. She said her family had advised her to speak to a personal injury solicitor, and she had done so. Her manager said she should be careful as the business would not be too happy if she did make a claim.
Her boss said one former worker who tried to make an injury claim was sacked and her subsequent claim for unfair dismissal rejected by an employment tribunal.
Eve was shocked by the discussion and insisted that she had only done what she had been advised to do. Her manager said he wanted to reassure her that he was on her side.
Then he dropped a bombshell. He told Eve that since she had been off an employee had left and made several allegations, which were being treated as a formal grievance.
Following the visit Eve was understandably worried. She contacted one of her workmates to find out what was going on at work.
Eve was informed that the ex-employee left with a settlement agreement and a pay off after making allegations of bullying and racism against several long-serving staff, but nothing ever came of it.
Eve later got a letter inviting her to a disciplinary hearing. The allegation was one of bullying a colleague.
The only evidence to support the allegation was a report from the manager, who had done the home visit. It was an account of what he said he had been told by the ex-employee during her exit interview.
Eve contacted her employer to say she was unwell and unable to attend the disciplinary hearing.
Days later she got a letter informing her that as she refused to attend the hearing it went ahead in her absence, and the decision had been taken to dismiss her.
Eve submitted an appeal and contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
Prior to the appeal hearing our representative requested information and documents from the employer to help Eve with her appeal. He requested all the information gathered, used and considered in making the decision to dismiss including any witness statements.
The company insisted Eve had been provided with all the evidence. At the appeal hearing our representative argued that the process, in proceeding with the hearing at the first time of asking knowing Eve was unwell, breached the ACAS Code guidance and denied Eve an opportunity to respond to the allegation, which is the cornerstone of any fair disciplinary process.
He also asserted that no reasonable employer would have dismissed a long-serving employee, off work sick at the time and with an exemplary disciplinary record based on the evidence presented,
Our representative asserted the real reason appeared to be the fact that the company feared being sued by Eve. The hearing chair refuted the suggestion but did accept that the matter could have been handled better.
A lengthy discussion took place about the case and Eve’s desired outcome, which was to be reinstated. The decision to dismiss was later overturned and she was reinstated.
Eve made a full recovery and her personal injury claim was eventually settled.
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