Employment – Unfair Dismissal – Procedure

In the recent case of Draper v Mears Ltd [2006] the issue of whether the employer had followed the Employment Acts correctly in dismissing an employee was brought to light. The employee was employed as a plumber and was given use of a company van. The employer had a sensible rule that any company vehicle should not be operated after the consumption of alcohol. The employer operated a zero-tolerance policy in this respect, of which the employee was fully aware.After work on one occasion, the employee parked the van near to a public house, which happened to be close to his work premises. He went to meet a colleague who had invited him out for a drink. Two of the employer’s managers happened to go to the same public house and discovered the employee sitting in the passenger seat of another company vehicle, with his colleague in the driver’s seat.One of the managers was of the opinion that the employee was a little drunk and challenged his proposed use for personal reasons of the colleague’s company vehicle. The employee was sent a letter dated 29th October 2004 informing him he was required to attend a disciplinary hearing. The issues to be considered being cited as:’Using a vehicle for social purposes. Conduct which fails to reasonably ensure health and safety of oneself and others. Insubordination. A breach of the company vehicle regulations and procedures’The employee was dismissed after the disciplinary hearing. The primary reason for his dismissal, which was set out in writing the next day, was that he was intending to drive his company vehicle after the consumption of alcohol. The employee claimed that he had been unfairly dismissed and brought a claim before the Employment Tribunal. The Employment Tribunal dismissed the claim and the employee appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.The issue arose as to whether the Employment Tribunal had erred in law in deciding whether the employer had complied with the standard dismissal and disciplinary procedures as outlined in the Employment Acts. The appeal was dismissed for the following reasons:* Firstly, the employer had to set out why he was thinking of dismissing the employee and provide the employee with an invitation to discuss the matters at hand.* Secondly, the tribunal were entitled to find that the statutory procedures had been complied with. The letter of 29th October had successfully outlined the general nature of the alleged misconduct.© RT COOPERS, 2006. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

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