Case law updates

Unfair Dismissal ruling shows importance of following proper disciplinary procedure

An Employment Tribunal has ruled against an employer for dismissing an employee who had recommended another retailer’s discounted product to his girlfriend on social media.

Michael Hayward had worked for Noel Chadwick, a Butcher’s in Wigan for seven and a half years before he was dismissed for gross misconduct and breach of contract by the company for what they believed to be “advertising” a competitor’s product and for breaching the company’s social media policy.

In evidence to the Tribunal it became clear that the company directors had already decided to dismiss Hayward before they convened a disciplinary meeting in April 2016. Hayward said he was not given the opportunity to have someone with him at the meeting or to give an explanation for his actions. As no Appeal was arranged within a few weeks of his dismissal Hayward lost confidence in the company and did not follow up the matter.

Although Hayward had been ‘pulled up’ about his use of social media before this event he had not received a warning as to future conduct or any suggestion that repeat behaviour could lead to dismissal.The Tribunal described the company’s claim that it had suffered financial or reputational loss because of the post as “fanciful”.

The Tribunal criticised the company for “a wholly mishandled dismissal root and branch”. The company accepted the criticism that it had not followed the correct dismissal procedure in this case  and took the opportunity to urge other small-to-medium businesses to take professional advice before setting out on a disciplinary process.