FAIR TO DISMISS A ‘CLEAN’ EMPLOYEE FOR MISCONDUCT?
An employee with 15 years’ service and a ‘clean’ disciplinary record was dismissed for committing a series of acts of misconduct even though he didn’t commit a single act of gross misconduct. The court held that the employee could still be fairly dismissed as when the acts of misconduct were considered together, the employee had committed gross misconduct by undermining the relationship of trust and confidence. Employers should exercise caution and take advice before relying on this decision however as it was very fact specific.
COMMUNICATE DISMISSAL DECISIONS VERBALLY!
In this case, an employee was on holiday when a letter of dismissal was sent to her in the post and there was a delay in her reading it. The Supreme Court held that the notice period started to run when the letter came to the attention of the employee and she had either read it or had a reasonable opportunity to do so. To ensure a dismissal date is certain, employers should therefore add wording to their employment contracts governing when notice is effective or employees should be informed verbally of their dismissal with any written correspondence simply being confirmation. This advice is particularly important if an employer needs to dismiss before a particular date!
LACK OF MALE ‘MATERNITY’ PAY IS NOT DISCRIMINATION!
In this case a male employee brought a sex discrimination claim because when he took a period of shared parental leave, he wasn’t entitled to the same amount of enhanced maternity pay that a female employee would have been paid. His claim was not upheld. The court’s justification was that females need to receive pay as they need to recover from the birth and the main purpose of maternity leave and maternity pay is the safeguarding of the health and wellbeing of the mother. By contrast, the purpose of shared parental leave is to care for the baby.
CONSIDER DISABILITIES WHEN MAKING DISCIPLINARY DECISIONS
In this disability discrimination case, the employee was a teacher and he suffered from cystic fibrosis. When his workload increased, he started to suffer with stress and this aggravated his cystic fibrosis. The employee was subsequently dismissed on the ground of gross misconduct for showing 15 and 16 year old pupils the 18 rated film ‘Halloween’. His claim for disability discrimination succeeded as it was found that his disability had caused his misconduct – this was the case even though the employer was not in receipt of any evidence which suggested that there was a link! Employers therefore need to be careful when taking disciplinary decisions where employees are disabled and advice should be taken as to whether medical evidence is required.
For more information on any of the above or, how we can help your business, please contact Sarah Furness, or call 0191 232 8345.