Employers urged to use objectivity in sackings

Employers
have been warned to ensure they use objective criteria when sacking staff over
performance, after a group of supermarket managers successfully claimed for
unfair dismissal against Sainsbury’s.

The
61 staff were sacked by the food retailer in January, after the company claimed
they lacked the right qualities to run a store.

The
managers, many of whom had more than 20 years’ service, were given 48 hours to
agree to a half-day assessment, which would have decided their future, or leave
with a severance deal.

Paul
Gilroy, representing the managers, said in a written submission to the Watford
tribunal that Sainsbury’s had already made up its mind who would go.

Sarah
Lamont, partner at law firm Bevan Ashford, said the case shows how important it
is for employers to be able to prove they have been objective in the way they
select staff to be sacked.

"It
is often hard for an employee to accept they have been selected to lose their
job for performance reasons, and the natural tendency is to challenge the
selection process," she said.

"This
reinforces the need to reduce subjectivity in any form of selection as far as
possible by using criteria which can be objectively applied and, where some
element of judgement is necessary, that selection procedures allow for more
than one manager’s view or some other form of moderating system."

The
tribunal panel is still to decide the final outcome of the case, which could
include reinstatement, redeployment, or compensation.

A
Sainsbury’s spokesman  said: "The
tribunal found that redundancy was an appropriate reason for dismissal and was
broadly satisfied with the procedures we had followed. Unfortunately, it ruled
the applicants had been unfairly dismissed due to a technicality of selection
procedure."

By
Ben Willmott

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