A man sacked from his job for sharing a rival butcher’s special offers on Facebook, has been awarded a pay out of £6,091, after winning an employment tribunal against his former bosses.
Michael Hayward had worked for Wigan-based butchers Noel Chadwick, for seven and a half years before being fired for recommending a discount from an online meat retailer to his then-girlfriend on social media. Mr Hayward was then dismissed by father and son directors John and Paul Chadwick for gross misconduct and breach of contract. They claimed he had advertised a competitor and broken the firm’s social media policy. The directors decided to dismiss Mr Hayward before his disciplinary meeting.
Decision was too harsh
Mr Hayward claimed the penalty was too harsh. His employers also failed to give him the opportunity to have someone accompany him at the meeting or to give an explanation regarding his actions. As no appeal was organised shortly after his dismissal, Mr Hayward lost confidence in the company, and didn’t pursue the matter straight away. The tribunal also heard that Mr Hayward had already been spoken to about his use of social media before he posted the offer. But again, he received no warning from his employer that suggested this conduct could lead to dismissal.
‘Minor misdemeanour’ said judge
Mr Hayward’s unfair dismissal claim succeeded, the judge said the firm had been “fanciful” to suggest it had suffered any financial or reputational loss as a result of the social media post. The judge referred to Mr Hayward’s actions as ‘a minor misdemeanour’ and that sharing the post was not to be considered an advertisement. The judge also acknowledged that the firm had mishandled its dismissal of Mr Hayward. Mr Hayward was awarded £6,091, which covered lost wages, compensation and the tribunal fees.
Lessons to be learned
This tribunal case reflects the importance of following a thorough and fair disciplinary procedure before sacking any employee. Employers can take action to protect themselves and their businesses when employees misuse social media outside of work. But they must also ensure any disciplinary penalties appropriately reflect the misconduct.