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Archive for the ‘employment practices’ tag

Expired warnings and misconduct? Be careful when dismissing!

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Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan, an employment specialist with law firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall, explains the implications of a recent tribunal decision as to whether expired warnings for employee misconduct are still relevant if the employee is eventually dismissed.

In Stratford v Auto Trail VR Ltd, Mr Stratford, who had worked for Auto Trail since 2001, was dismissed for misconduct. He had a poor disciplinary record consisting of many offences, most recently a nine month warning in December 2012 and a three month warning in January 2014.

Both warnings had expired by the time of the events which led to his dismissal. On 15 October 2014, he was disciplined for having his mobile phone in his hand on the shop floor, which was ‘strictly prohibited’ by the employer’s handbook.

As this was his 18th formal disciplinary offence, in addition to numerous informal conversations, the investigating manager felt that there was reason to believe that there would be a further conversation in future and dismissed Mr Stratford. After appealing unsuccessfully, Mr Stratford brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

The tribunal judge held that the employer had been entitled to take into account Mr Stratford’s disciplinary record and that his dismissal in the circumstances was fair.

Mr Stratford appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) on the basis that the misconduct did not justify his dismissal and that it was not reasonable for his employer to rely upon expired warnings for previous misconduct as the main reason for his dismissal.

The EAT upheld the employer’s decision, saying that the obligation to act reasonably when deciding whether a particular act was sufficient to justify dismissal meant that it was open to a Tribunal to find that the dismissal was fair.

The Judge noted that the previous misconduct, the fact that a final warning had already been given although had expired by the date of the subsequent misconduct, were objective circumstances relevant to the questions of reasonableness, equity, merits and fairness.

As a general rule, an expired warning cannot be used to increase any misconduct, which would not normally lead to dismissal, into a dismissible offence. However, where the behaviour amounts to gross misconduct warranting dismissal, an employer is entitled to take into account an expired warning when determining what sanction to impose.

Every case will turn on its own facts. In this case, Mr Stratford’s disciplinary record contained many more incidents, spanning the entire period of his employment.

Employers are therefore best advised to ensure that their disciplinary policy stipulates that the duration of any warning may be extended in respect of a subsequent act of gross misconduct which is substantially the same.

Also, where examples of misconduct and gross misconduct are given, the policy should make clear these are only a guide. Employers should specifically draw their employees’ attention to the employer’s disciplinary policy.

For further information contact Andrew Egan on 01635 521212 or andrew.egan@clmlaw.co.uk

 

Written by Andrew Egan

January 19th, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Protecting disabled employee’s pay can be a reasonable adjustment

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The Employment Appeals Tribunal (“EAT”) has held that an Employment Tribunal was entitled to find that an employer was required, as a reasonable adjustment, to continue employing a disabled employee in a more junior role involving less physical activity, preserving his existing rate of pay on an indefinite basis. Whether it was reasonable for the employer to have to take that step was a separate question, to be determined in the particular circumstances.

Protecting disabled employee’s pay

Protecting disabled employee’s pay

In the case of G4S Cash Solutions (UK) Ltd v Powell, the EAT decided that if an employer proposes an adjustment which is incompatible with the terms of the employee’s contract, the employee is entitled to decline it: the adjustment will not be effective without agreement. In this case, it was clear that there had been a variation of the contract when the employee returned from sickness absence to a changed role.

Protecting a disabled employee’s pay when they are redeployed should not be discounted. In every case, the reasonableness of potential adjustments must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the factors set out in the EHRC Code, including the costs of making the adjustment and the financial and other resources available to the employer.

In this case, the employer had paid Mr Powell at the higher rate of pay for about a year, and had led him to believe that the arrangement would be long-term. The Tribunal concluded that the employer was a company with substantial resources for whom the additional annual cost of employing Mr Powell would have been easily affordable. The employer’s evidence was that the main reason for not continuing to pay the higher pay was the likelihood of discontent from other employees. The EAT described this as an “unattractive reason”. This is a reminder that the impact (or anticipated impact) on other employees of an adjustment is not generally a factor that should be taken into account when determining reasonableness. However, wider implications on the organisation or the workforce as a whole may be considered.

Previous cases have held that it is for the employer to explore the possibility of reasonable adjustments, not for the employee to suggest them. Although in some circumstances employers will be expected to take the initiative in making adjustments in order to discharge the duty, this case clarifies that an adjustment which also amounts to a contractual change will not be effective without securing the employee’s agreement.

For further information contact Andrew Egan on 01635 521212 or andrew.egan@clmlaw.co.uk

Written by Andrew Egan

September 19th, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Withdrawal of Job Offer Proves Costly to Employer

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Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan, an employment lawyer with Charles Lucas & Marshall highlights a recent tribunal case which demonstrates verbal job offers can be legally binding.

In the recent case of McCann v Snozone Ltd, an employment tribunal awarded a claimant damages for breach of contract where he verbally accepted a job offer made by a recruitment agency acting for the employer and the employer subsequently withdrew the offer.

The employer appointed a recruitment agency to identify suitable candidates for vacancies as maintenance engineers.

After two interviews, Mr McCann had telephone conversations with the job agency. The employment tribunal accepted that Mr McCann’s version that he was offered – and accepted – a post was more believable on the facts.

It was common ground that his salary and start date had not been agreed by the parties.

The employer subsequently denied that any offer of employment had been made and Mr McCann brought a claim in the tribunal for damages for breach of contract.

The tribunal held that the employer, acting through its agency, had verbally offered a job to Mr McCann, which he accepted, and which therefore created a contract of employment. The tribunal said that legal relations had then been created which could only be terminated by giving notice.

As the employer terminated the contract without notice by withdrawing the offer of employment, Mr McCann was entitled to damages for breach of contract equal to salary in lieu of notice.

In the absence of agreed or certain contract terms, the tribunal determined that a minimum reasonable contractual notice period was one month and awarded Mr McCann damages for breach of contract amounting to one month’s salary of £2,708, as well as tribunal fees of £390.

A verbal job offer by an employer, even where the offer does not contain key employment terms such as salary, holidays, etc may form a binding contract of employment if it is accepted by a job applicant.

As offers of employment are often communicated verbally by employers, or by employment agencies acting on the employer’s  behalf, the employer should, at the time that the offer is made, state (or require the employment agency to state) that the employer will provide full details of the offer in a letter. Having this process in place will help employers avoid inadvertently making an offer before terms are agreed.

Employers can make a conditional offer of employment, so that if a condition is not satisfied, the offer can be withdrawn without breaching the contract.

For further information contact Andrew Egan on 01635 521212 or andrew.egan@clmlaw.co.uk

Written by Andrew Egan

September 2nd, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Employers – Do You Have An Electronics Communication Policy?

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Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan, an employment lawyer with Charles Lucas & Marshall, explains the significance of a court case which examined access to workers’ private messages sent via chat software and webmail accounts.  

Employees’ use of email and the internet – including their activities on social network sites and blogs – can lead to performance issues, damage to the employer’s reputation, loss of business and various legal liabilities.

There are a number of ways in which employers may monitor their employees’ email content and traffic, internet and telephone use in the workplace.

The importance of providing information to employees about monitoring means that employers should have an electronic communications policy. The policy should actually extend beyond monitoring, to also set standards, cross-reference other policies and address the risks arising from email use and internet access, including:

  • Constructive dismissal claims
  • Discrimination, harassment and defamation claims
  • Intellectual property issues
  • Contractual liability
  • Loss of productivity

In a recent case, an engineer, Mr Barbulescu, was utilising his business messenger account to send communications to his family and partner, including very personal content!

His employer discovered this by accident and dismissed him. After going through the Romanian Courts, he took his case to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that his right to respect of his private life and correspondence was breached by his employer monitoring his personal communications at work.

The Court did not agree, recognising the need for employers to be able to verify that employees are completing professional tasks during working hours, subject to proportionality.

The court’s ruling does not, however, give employers the right to force access to the personal social media accounts or other communication accounts of workers, particularly when used on their own devices, although, there is scope for access being monitored if during work hours and on a work device.

Most employers are to a degree flexible about employees using their computers and the internet to conduct personal tasks as long as it is in break times and is not excessive.

The judgment highlights the need and importance of ensuring that appropriate and lawful employee-monitoring policies are in place, are covered in the employee’s employment contract and that they are communicated to employees and adhered to.

Merely letting staff know that their activities are under surveillance may not be enough to provide the employee with sufficient information about the nature, scope and effect of the internet monitoring policy. A policy should identify the minimum element of an internet usage and surveillance policy, including specific misconduct being monitored.

For further information contact Andrew Egan on 01635 521212 or andrew.egan@clmlaw.co.uk

 

 

Written by Andrew Egan

February 2nd, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Employment Law Newsletter – June 2015

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Employment Law Newsletter - June 2015

Employment Law Newsletter – June 2015

Written by Andrew Egan

July 7th, 2015 at 5:30 pm