Carry out a full investigation before you terminate an employee!

Background

Earlier this year Tesco learned this lesson the hard way in the case of Tesco PLC v Ms C Berrington (B)

B was employed by Tesco between August 2005 to 19 February 2018, B originally started at the company as a general assistance and until becoming a Counter Team Manager. B had a clean disciplinary record and previously her honesty and integrity had not been an issued.

On the 08 January 2018 B was suspended following allegation of breaching one of Tesco’s procedures which suggested she had reduced certain stock and sold it from an unauthorised location, not putting it on the general sale. In total B was suspended for 23 days whilst the investigation was undertaken which included an investigation meetings with other members of staff and a review of CCTV footage. B had admitted to purchasing a number of reduced goods on two days, on the 24 December 2017 the goods totalled to £29.93 (reduced from £188.59) and on the 31 December 2017 paid a sum of £8.91 (reduced from £68.40).
B stated she had purchased the goods which were reduced for legitimate purposes and were offered to the public for sale and therefore was unaware of any issues.

A disciplinary hearing was conducted on the 10 February 2018 based on the allegation of an abuse of the reduction process against company policy and a breach of the colleague shopping policy. Following the meeting, B was dismissed because the dismissing officer believed B was guilty of miss conduct as they believed B’s decision to purchase the reduced goods was premeditated.

B appealed the dismissal, reasons given were the penalty was too hard, the penalty was inconsistent with other similar cases and the hearing was not fair.

The appeal hearing took place on the 13 April 2018 however the decision was upheld.

Employment Tribunal
B issued proceedings against Tesco for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal and the claim was heard before an employment tribunal on the 29 June 2018.

B alleged the dismissal was unfair due to the alleged unfair investigation and B was not guilty of any misconduct. Tesco argued the dismissal was fair.

The ET found that whilst a investigation was carried out, it did not comply with the ACAS Code as Tesco had failed to obtain the relevant facts during the investigation process.

The Claimant was awarded a basic £7,452.80 plus £24,221.64 compensatory award in relation to the Unfair Dismissal element of the claim. Tesco also had to pay £4,184.04 for Wrongful Dismissal.

From the case, it’s important to remember to follow the ACAS code, should you fail to do so and then find you will be facing a tribunal, they can award the employee a uplift of 25% if they are successful! (www.acas.org.uk)

Lawgistics Members can utilise HR Manager, an easy to understand, simple to use piece of software that enables you to manage all aspects of HR, Employment Law, Health and Safety and GDPR compliance for your business. HR Manager is FREE and available to all Lawgistics members. Call 01480 455500 to start using HR Manager today or to talk to your legal advisor.


 

Authors: Roxanne Bradley

Published: 30 Sep 2019

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