An employee who was fired for sharing a competitor’s advertisement on social media has won an Employment Tribunal against his former employer. The case, although decided under English law, serves as a useful reminder to Irish employers of the importance of having sufficiently robust disciplinary practices and procedures in place, to prevent successful subsequent challenges.

Michael Hayward, the employee, had worked for Noel Chadwick, the employer, described to the Employment Tribunal as a small and well-respected butcher in Wigan, for seven and a half years before he was dismissed for recommending a discount from online retailer Fresh Meat Packs North West to his then-girlfriend on Facebook.

Hayward was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct and breach of contract by father and son directors John and Paul Chadwick for ‘advertising’ what they believed to be a competitor and breaching the company’s social media policy. The employee was dismissed summarily in a process which was described as “reprehensible” by the Employment Tribunal. There was no letter asking the employee to attend a disciplinary meeting nor were any reasons given to him why he should attend such meeting, in addition to there being no warning that the disciplinary proceedings could lead to his dismissal. The employee was not given the opportunity to have someone with him at the meeting. Once the meeting took place, it was so short he was not allowed, or did not have time, to give any explanation regarding his actions. No appeal was offered to the employee by the employer.

This case serves as a salutary reminder that employers must make sure disciplinary allegations are properly drafted to fairly reflect any wrongdoing, there is a sufficient connection with the work of the employees and there are strong grounds to support summarily dismissing an employee for gross misconduct.

Printable Version: InBrief – Disciplinary Practices and Procedures – Hayward v Chadwick

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