Small employer pays heavily for ignorance of the ACAS code

Ignorance of the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures is a positive invitation to Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings. A small employer found that out to its cost after a cleaner was sacked by text message.

When the woman launched proceedings, the owner of the six-employee business for which she worked contended that she had been dismissed for gross misconduct. He confirmed, however, that he had not followed the ACAS Code and that, having never dismissed an employee before or since, he did not know what it was.

She had been accused of rudeness and failing to return to work promptly following a holiday. In upholding her unfair dismissal claim, however, the ET found that, having failed to conduct a fair investigation, the employer had no genuine belief that she was guilty of the misconduct alleged.

No witnesses were interviewed, no warnings were given and there was no meeting with her prior to the text being sent. She was afforded neither a fair opportunity to answer the allegations nor a right of appeal. In the absence of a fair procedure, her summary dismissal fell outside the range of reasonable responses open to the employer.

She had, prior to her dismissal, informed the employer that she had sustained injury when she was thrown about in the back of a works van after the driver’s foot slipped onto the accelerator. The ET found that the reason for her dismissal was that the employer, who was in financial difficulties, was concerned that she might make a financial claim.

Her dismissal without notice was also wrongful and the employer had failed in its obligation to provide her with a written statement of particulars of employment. The compensatory element of her award was uplifted by the maximum possible 25% to reflect the employer’s unreasonable failure to follow the ACAS Code. Her total award came to £8,192, plus costs.

Odamtten v M&I Jetmaid Cleaning Services Limited. Case Number: 3302253/2022