Unfair dismissal: small business instantly dismissed employee during argument

Employers need to be wary of heat-of-the-moment dismissals

An employee was unfairly dismissed when he was told to “not bother coming back on Monday” during an argument with his manager, an employment tribunal has held. Stephen Simpson rounds up tribunal decisions from the previous week.

Manager’s angry words to employee to “not bother coming back on Monday”
In Townsend v Commercial Storage Ltd, the employment tribunal held that a manager’s angry words during an argument to an employee to “not bother coming back on Monday” constituted a dismissal.

Mr Townsend, a driver for a small family business, got into an argument with Mr Cooke, who ran the business.

At Mr Cooke’s insistence, Mr Townsend had come into work while on annual leave to set up a new truck that he was taking out. He resented being disturbed while on annual leave.

According to Mr Townsend, Mr Cooke said to him during the argument: “Get out of the yard and don’t bother coming back on Monday.”

Mr Townsend took this as a dismissal, and left the workplace. Mr Cooke made no attempt to contact Mr Townsend in the next few weeks, and later sent him his P45.

Mr Townsend claimed unfair dismissal, but the employer argued that he had resigned and had not been dismissed.

The employment tribunal accepted that both parties in a way that suggested dismissal: Mr Townsend left the employer’s property behind and did not return to work. He told others that he had been sacked. The employer took no steps to ascertain Mr Townsend’s whereabouts when he did not return to work.

Once the tribunal concluded that Mr Townsend had been dismissed, it had no hesitation in upholding his unfair dismissal claim. There was a total failure to adopt any sort of fair procedure.

Read more details of the case and the full judgment…


Other tribunal decisions in the headlines

Royal Shrewsbury Hospital admits errors in asbestos probe
A hospital has admitted a number of failings in its handling of concerns about suspected asbestos exposure, reports the BBC. A tribunal ruled that a worker had been unfairly dismissed for making a public interest disclosure about workers’ exposure to asbestos.

BBC producer loses discrimination claim over sacking
A BBC World Service journalist sacked after he declined to put a report of the birth of Prince George out on a Sri Lankan news service has lost a tribunal claim for race discrimination, according to the Press Gazette.

Social worker who won unfair dismissal case speaks out
Graham Hennis talked to Community Care after winning his two-and-a-half-year legal battle with a council following the death of a service user.

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