A recent Employment Tribunal has shown how important it is to follow procedure when carrying out a dismissal.
Mr Townsend was a driver for Commercial Storage Ltd, a small family business run by Mr Cooke. Mr Cooke called Mr Townsend into work during his annual leave to set up a new truck, which Mr Townsend was unhappy about. An argument broke out between the two, which culminated with Mr Cooke allegedly telling Mr Townsend “get out of the yard and don’t bother coming back on Monday”.
Mr Townsend considered this a dismissal, so he handed in his keys and company mobile phone and left the premises. There was no contact between the two parties for the next few weeks until Mr Townsend received his P45. He then made a claim for unfair dismissal. Commercial Storage Ltd argued the claim and said that Mr Townsend had resigned.
The Employment Tribunal ruled in Mr Townsend’s favour, as both party’s actions suggested that Mr Townsend was dismissed by Mr Cooke. Once the Tribunal had concluded that Mr Townsend had been dismissed it upheld his claim for unfair dismissal as there had been no attempt to follow any kind of procedure.
It seems that Mr Cooke was acting in the heat of the moment when he dismissed Mr Townsend, but this case serves as an example of how important it is for employers and managers to remain calm and be mindful of what they say. An instant dismissal is procedurally unfair.
If tensions are high and there is a risk that the situation could escalate it is best to send the employee home for the day. After all parties have had the chance to calm down you can call the employee back to work to discuss what happened. This also gives you a chance to review your policies and follow correct procedure to resolve the issue.