Failure to follow the ACAS Code resulted in a 25% uplift in unfair dismissal case!

Two cleaners who were fired because of alleged rude and abusive behaviour towards colleagues and clients were unfairly dismissed because their employer did not conduct itself in a procedurally fair manner”, according to an employment tribunal.

The cleaners’ director received an email from the client outlining performance concerns from the two cleaners, including their failure to clean door handles and handrails daily.

Following the email, the area manager addressed this matter and also discussed the cleaners’ incorrect uniform and timekeeping issues, asking that, in future, they call her from the landline on arrival and departure as a way of clocking in and out. This meeting was acrimonious. Later that week, a further complaint was made regarding the employees’ rudeness towards another colleague and the area manager contacted them, stating that they were not to return to work.

They were written to, advising that they had been suspended on full pay and were not required to come in on Monday, pending further investigations of multiple allegations of gross misconduct. These included: poor timekeeping; rude and abusive behaviour to clients and attending the site without uniform. No factual details of the allegations were provided.

Both claimants stated at the tribunal that they felt unable to respond to these accusations when they were not clear what they were supposed to have done.

The tribunal found that no investigatory meeting had taken place with the employees to hear their side of the events and they were not provided with any record of the area manager’s account of the alleged events.

They were then dismissed and the dismissal letter confirmed that the allegations amounted to gross misconduct and that no defence to the claims had been provided. The employees wrote to the company outlining that they had not been informed of the allegations and that on this basis, were not able to respond to them.

The tribunal noted that no response was provided to this – the employer did not appoint an independent appeal manager, did not offer an appeal meeting and no written response to this letter was provided.

The tribunal also found that there was no evidence presented to support the alleged “poor timekeeping and failure to complete contracted hours”, which were cited in the letter of termination.

The employment judge concluded that “there was no gross misconduct which justified a summary dismissal”, citing the fact that the claimants “were not told what the factual basis for the alleged misconduct was”, along with the lack of meetings with the pair “to hear their side of the events”.

The tribunal awarded £4,534.50 each to the claimants, in compensation for unfair and wrong dismissal.

This case is yet another reminder of the need to follow the ACAS code on disciplinary and grievance procedures”, as the employees were also awarded the maximum 25% uplift due to the employer’s failure in this regard.

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