How not to dismiss!

A care support worker fired over a misunderstanding with a pottery class booking was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has ruled.

The tribunal heard that the employee had worked since May 2008 as a care support worker. As part of her role, she helped run activities for disabled clients.

One of the activities run at a day centre was a weekly pottery painting class which was cancelled by the provider after a series of conversations with the employee. The employer made an assumption that the employee had somehow caused the cancellation and proceeded to invite her to a disciplinary meeting. However she did not receive the invitation to the hearing until she received a phone call asking why she had not turned up. She was asked if she wished to have the hearing by telephone but declined and the meeting continued without her. It was decided that she should be dismissed, on the grounds that she had caused confusion with the pottery supplier and had caused the day centre reputational damage.

She appealed the disciplinary meeting’s findings, but her dismissal was upheld. Allowing the claims for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal, the judge decided that the conclusion had been reached through an investigation that was “wholly inadequate even when judged through the prism of the range of reasonable responses test”. The judge also said that the decision to continue with the original disciplinary hearing in the employee’s absence was “procedurally unfair” and, by the time the appeal hearing took place, the employer was “determined to dismiss her.

The employee was awarded £4,466 for unfair dismissal and £784 for wrongful dismissal.

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