When Relationships Breakdown in the Workplace
Published 12 September 2018
Just like any other relationship when working relationships breakdown the fallout can be acrimonious, distressing and costly.
Pat believed dismissal was inevitable after a disagreement with her boss about a supplier of cut price and inferior products being purchased and used in the hairdressing and beauty salon where she worked
She had just under two years’ service when she was fired for being physically and verbally abusive to an apprentice who also worked at the salon.
It was alleged that Pat had grabbed the teenager’s head, shook it violently and shouted at her. The apprentice claimed it was the most distressing act in a long campaign of bullying.
At the disciplinary hearing Pat categorically denied the allegations and any deliberate wrongdoing.
The allegations first came to light after the apprentice was warned about her timekeeping and time off by the manager Pat had the disagreement with. The apprentice claimed she was scared to come to work because of Pat.
After being dismissed Pat contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help with an appeal against the decision.
Pat explained to our representative that she did put her hands either side of the apprentice’s head in an encouraging, friendly and motivational way in bid to urge the teenager to focus after she was warned repeatedly about mistakes.
Pat said that there were two colleagues who witnessed it, but they were not asked for statements.
The other allegations of bullying lacked detail, dates and witnesses. Pat maintained the claims were untrue.
At the disciplinary appeal hearing our representative argued the decision to dismiss was unfair for a number of reasons.
He maintained that in Pat raising concerns about the purchase of inferior products that may potentially pose a health and safety risk to members of the public she can be considered as having made a whistle-blowing disclosure.
In addition to this, the disciplinary process conducted by the company also breached the ACAS Code of Practice, which provides statutory guidance that all employers are encouraged to follow regardless of an employee’s length of service.
Prior to the appeal hearing the employer provided previously unseen witness statements. Our representative pointed out withholding that evidence was a breach of the Code. The statements did not support the allegations but made different allegations against Pat, which lacked any detail to enable her to respond. Our representative asserted the lack of details denied Pat a reasonable opportunity to respond – also a requirement of the ACAS Code.
In advance of the appeal hearing one of Pat’s former colleagues who witnessed the incident with the apprentice, provided Pat with a statement. She said there was nothing untoward in what took place and recalled the apprentice thanking Pat for her support and apologising for letting her down.
This statement was presented to the appeal hearing chair. Our representative argued that it supported Pat’s version of events in that her actions were not nasty or malicious.
In regards to the allegations of ongoing bullying our representative pointed that there was no corroborating evidence and therefore Pat should be given the benefit of the doubt.
He also asked the company to confirm the apprentice would have been aware of its grievance policy, which it did. Our representative highlighted that she had never made a complaint despite being aware of that policy.
He added that the allegations appear to have been an attempt to distract from the apprentice’s poor timekeeping and attendance, which were seized on by a manager who had fallen out with Pat.
The appeal hearing chair discussed Pat’s preferred outcome to the appeal. She felt strongly that she could not return to work at the salon.
Our representative initiated a discussion around a settlement agreement, which was Pat’s preferred option.
An agreement was later reached, which included the dismissal being removed from Pat’s record, a financial payment and a guarantee of a reference.
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