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There have been some fairly sensational stories in the news recently about staff getting fired for all sorts of strange reasons – however which of these really might constitute unfair dismissal claims?

We’ve taken a look at some of the stranger stories that have appeared across the net, to try and give a balanced view on what we think on the subject…

Fired for calling the police on a drunk driver?

First of all, this gem that we found in the Metro – can this really be fair? Should an employee really be fired when all he was really doing was his civil duty and reporting a drunk driver?

It may be that the business believed that by calling the police on a guest he was bringing the establishment into disrepute (hence the gross misconduct) – however I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. What we don’t know is other circumstances surrounding the story, but I suppose we never will…

3 failed alcohol tests – unfair dismissal?

This story is one that is sure to create strong feelings amongst commuters in the capital – but is there more to it than meets the eye?

Obviously, if someone has genuinely failed a drink/drugs test three times whilst on the job, they don’t really have a leg to stand on fighting for unfair dismissal – however, was the process surrounding it watertight?

It might be that the union think it wasn’t. For example, if the breathalyser used on the employee was not an agreed make and model they could have a legal loophole with which to challenge dismissal – if the breathalyser was not properly calibrated each time, this could also lead an employment tribunal to think the process was flawed.

The fact that the employee in question was caught on three separate occasions is likely to make the dismissal pretty solid, although you might question why he wasn’t dismissed after the first occasion.

Apologising for the service – and being sacked for it

Imagine it. You’re left without the proper tools to do your job, and you make do but a customer complains. Do you tell them why and risk getting sacked, or just apologise.

If that whole sentence sounds strange to you, you’re not alone.

It would seem that many have been left confused after a rail worker was fired due to his explanation for a sub-standard meal left his bosses cold (pun most certainly intended there).

Is this right? As his story would suggest that he was left without the right equipment and support to serve the meal properly.

On first inspection it would seem that no, the employee here shouldn’t have been fired. However, it would depend on their policy for bringing the company into disrepute as the train operator asserts.

Depending on how the worker worded his apology, or how he mentioned that he was left without the proper equipment – you could potentially argue that he was lambasting his employers in front of customers instead of simply apologising that the breakfast was a bit rubbish.

But then, it could equally be the other way around… it’s a minefield!

Sacked for taking two vital days of Paternity leave

Finally, comes this story fresh off the presses – a delivery driver sacked for taking extended paternity leave.

The catch? He states that he had to, in order to care for his disabled daughter and his then sick wife – something that only took him two days over his fortnight’s worth of allowance.

The difficulty here is that in company policy they may well have been within their rights to do this – as long as they followed the correct process. However, does it mean that they should have done it?

We don’t know the entire story about this employee of course, and there’s a fair bit of sensationalism thrown in, but it would appear to be a pretty crass move on the part of Sainsbury’s. The employee would have been entitled to unpaid leave to deal with an unplanned domestic incident involving his dependants therefore we’d suggest there was a bit more to this than meets the eye.

Will their public relations team cause them to have a change of heart? Who knows? But it comes at an interesting time for Paternity politics – Ed Miliband detailing his new extended leave plans for dads should the Labour party win this year’s election.

All of these stories have been chosen for their sensational headlines, however they call into question some of the tricky issues around dismissing employees. It shows that if you are going to fire someone, you need to follow the right procedures to the letter and be reasonable in the decision you make – or risk a potentially costly unfair dismissal claim.

If you’re not sure as to the right process for dismissing staff, our HR software and support service designed for small business gives you access to telephone advice from qualified consultants – why not try a Free Trial today and see how it could help you?



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