In the case, an assistant manager of a professional football club, who play in the lower leagues, was dismissed after being accused of swearing and verbally abusing members of the club’s ground staff. He was said to have lost his temper over the positioning of practice nets and cones before a pre-season match and, following a disciplinary process, was dismissed with immediate effect for gross misconduct. The employee, who admitted swearing, said that the language was commonplace in the game and he only swore after being sworn at himself.
The matter proceeded to an Employment Tribunal, which ruled that the employee was unfairly sacked. In particular it was noted that the burden of proof, which is on the employer, had not been met and that the man’s guilt had not been established to the required standard. Furthermore, in finding that his dismissal was unfair, it focused on the procedure, especially the fact that the employee had not been informed of the allegation until six months after the incident. Therefore, due to these factors, his dismissal was outside the range of reasonable responses and the tribunal also found he had been wrongfully dismissed without notice, in breach of his contract.
Following the decision the employee will be entitled to compensation for six month’s loss of salary and benefits, plus a basic award of £865 for unfair dismissal and almost £3,000 in lieu of notice. The exact amount is being determined by the parties’ legal representatives.
Although this is a high profile case, the matter demonstrates the importance of having sound disciplinary processes in place, with a variety of sanctions being available. It also shows that failure to conduct proceedings in an efficient manner may result in the outcome being liable to a legal challenge at an Employment Tribunal for procedural deficiencies.