Tribunal Watch June 2015

2015-06-08 Philip posted:

On the buses - two cases of unfair dismissal

Two recent and conflicting Employment Tribunal claims have illustrated the difficulties employers face when applying policies and disciplining employees caught using mobile phones whilst driving.

Mr Ruparell lost his case of unfair dismissal from his job as a driver with East London Bus & Coach Co Ltd when he was seen holding his mobile phone while exiting a bus stand, in breach of the employer’s very strict and clearly communicated mobile phone rules. He was parked on a stand at the end of his route, with the engine switched off and no passengers aboard, took out his mobile phone to set the alarm – but fell asleep thinking the alarm was set. He woke up abruptly only to realise that he had missed his scheduled departure time because the alarm did not go off.

CCTV footage showed Mr Ruparell starting his engine and moving off with his mobile phone in his hand. While the bus was moving, he took both hands off the steering wheel to put the phone into his pocket, then put one hand back on the wheel to secure the phone with his other hand. The employment tribunal took into account the employer’s strict and clearly communicated ban on mobile phone use, which included a prohibition on the “visible presence” of mobile phones in the cab area and the fact that Mr Ruparell was already on a final warning.

Meanwhile, Mr Whitehead succeeded in persuading the Tribunal he was unfairly dismissed as a driver with FirstGroup Holdings Ltd after he was reported for using his mobile phone while driving. Mr Whitehead had worked for the bus company for 36 years as an accountant. He had an unblemished record and was regarded as a “competent, conscientious and law-abiding employee”. A colleague reported witnessing him driving into the workplace car park while using his mobile phone. He was driving his own car at the time. The Tribunal said that it was by no means clear that the employer’s policy on mobile phone use while driving applied while entering the workplace in a private car and was critical of the employer for not having taken account the mitigating circumstances, including the claimant’s long and impeccable service.

It isn't always easy to dismiss someone fairly. Telephone us on 01225 632240 to discuss how we can help you ensure you have the right policies in place to protect your business and employees and follow a fair procedure when considering an employee’s misconduct.

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