A Weetabix health and safety employee who left his job after having to endure shouting, bullying and offensive language from his manager was constructively dismissed, an employment tribunal has found.
Mr Mobbs, who was the food company’s UK health, safety and environmental manager, claimed he experienced “inappropriate, bullying and harassing behaviour” from his line manager, Mr Petre, which contributed to his decision to leave the company in 2020.
Weetabix told the employment tribunal that Petre’s management style involved him using words that “humiliate” employees to “get the best out of people”. Petre said he did not shy away from holding employees to account for their actions, often in a public forum.
On one occasion, after Mobbs emailed Petre to ask him to move a meeting to resolve a clash, Petre telephoned Mobbs and told him: “don’t inconvenience me with your poor organising skills….sort yourself out”.
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Mobbs also highlighted an incident where Petre had called a colleague “useless” and “a f**king idiot”.
A meeting about a health and safety incident in 2019 saw Petre raise his voice at Mobbs, refuse to let him speak, and accuse him of jeopardising the commercial interests of the business.
In November 2019 Mobbs raised a formal grievance about Petre’s behaviour. A delayed investigation saw Petre refute Mobbs’ claims, and his grievance was later dismissed. Mobbs appealed the decision but this was not upheld.
The employment tribunal found that Petre’s behaviour was sufficiently serious enough to breach the terms of trust and confidence detailed in the claimant’s employment contract.
Petre told the tribunal that he was familiar with Weetabix’s dignity at work policy and understood that communication could be deemed offensive irrespective of his intention.
Employment judge Hutchings said: “In my judgment neither Mr Petre’s direct management style nor ambition to get the best of colleagues by humiliating them are not reasonable or proper causes for the language he used.
“The use of unprofessional and offensive language by Mr Petre on more than one occasion was likely to destroy Mr Mobbs’ trust and confidence with his employer.”
The tribunal’s judgment said the delays in the grievance process were not reasonable for an employer of its size.
Mobbs was signed off work by his GP from November 2019 to June 2020, when Mobbs resigned. He claimed the grievance process contributed to his anxiety and illness. The company recommended an occupational health assessment, but there was a delay in getting a consultation.
The tribunal felt this delay, which is said was caused by an employee not fully understanding the process, fell below the standards expected of a reasonable employer.
A Weetabix spokesperson said: “We are proud of our reputation as a fair and inclusive employer. We expect the highest standards of conduct from all Weetabix employees, so undertook a full investigation when this matter came to light. Whilst we respect the tribunal judgment, we are confident in our grievance handling processes and the steps taken, so consider this matter closed.”