A recent newspaper article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-21753342 wrote about a project manager, Paul Marshallsea, who came home from a trip to Australia to read in a letter that he had been sacked by the charity, Pant and Dowlais Boys and Girls Club, for which he had worked for ten years.
Apparently he had been seen on TV saving some children from a shark attack – deemed to be a hero. However, whilst doing this he was, at the time, on sick leave from his job. The charity stated that they had lost all confidence in him. Whilst the charity may have done so, the action they have taken could lead to legal recriminations in an employment tribunal and they should have thought twice before taking such hasty action.
When suspecting an employee of misconduct or gross misconduct it is important to undertake an investigation first. In this instance the charity should have invited the employee by letter to a disciplinary hearing with the right to a companion. During the hearing the charity should have given him time to explain the situation faced with the video evidence of his trip to Australia, this would be part of the investigation process.
The cause of his sickness absence was stress. An employee off with stress does not necessarily have to sit at home feeling sorry for themselves. Sometimes on doctor’s advice they are encouraged to have a change of scenery and what a change of scenery Australia is when the UK is in the depths of winter. As part of the investigation into the situation the charity should have gained medical evidence from the employee’s GP or more preferably, an independent occupational advisor to establish whether the trip was part of a recuperation plan.
The hearing should have adjourned pending the receipt of medical information to inform the situation along with consideration of the facts provided by the employee of his conduct.
Only then should the charity have communicated their decision in writing being sure that they were making the right decision having analysed the facts, to him providing the right to an appeal against dismissal.
This procedure follows the ACAS Code of Practice and an employee at risk of dismissal is owed the basic right to explain his actions and have them investigated to avoid any potential miscarriage of justice.
By acting in haste, the charity may come to rue the decision it took in January to dismiss by letter. The price of its reputation with this now high profile news item may be too much. That is without any unfair dismissal compensation should Mr Marshallsea and his wife pursue an employment tribunal claim and win…..