Consistency is key when it comes to dismissal

A bus driver who ran a red light has won his case for unfair dismissal, after a judge ruled that a “five second” lapse in judgement should not discount more than 30 years of good service.

At the employment tribunal, the 59-year-old driver did not deny that he had skipped the lights but claimed that the company’s decision to sack him was too harsh and was inconsistent with the treatment of other drivers involved in similar incidences.
Evidence was presented to show that this was the type of offence that other employees had been merely given warnings for. Before the incident took place, the bus driver had neither been involved in a driving accident nor received a driving penalty for 32 years.

In handing down the judgment, the judge accepted that the driver’s actions were “a five-second momentary lapse of concentration on his part, by a driver who sits in the cab facing the unpredictable environment of busy city roads eight to 10 hours each day”.

This is a reminder that dismissal for an act of gross misconduct may not always be fair where dismissal is “outside the band of reasonable responses”. An employer should always consider, and be able to evidence, whether a lesser sanction would have been more appropriate.

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