Mr Steven Tyler, 28, started work for Sainsburys 11 years ago as a baker. He worked in that position until he was dismissed in August 2011 for leaving his store whilst on his shift to pick up some change from his car.
The incident occurred on 24 August 2011. Mr Tyler attended work as normal. During his shift he went to get a cup of coffee. However, he found that he did not have enough money on him. He therefore left the store to obtain some change a coat that he had left in a friend’s car. CCTV footage captured him leaving the store and he was confronted by his manager. His manager informed him that he had not had permission to leave the store and he was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct. Mr Tyler claimed that he had in fact received permission from the manager to leave the store and that his sacking was unfair.
Mr Tyler subsequently consulted an employment solicitor and pursued a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. He was successful and was awarded £10,000 in compensation for lost earnings and breach of contract.
Speaking after the Employment Tribunal, Mr Tyler stated that he’d never work in a Sainsbury’s again and that he had expected “some support after working there for so long… it was disgusting the way I was treated and I’m relieved that they’ve been made to pay up”, further adding that it “was never about the money, it was about getting what was right”. He also stated that the loss of his job had led to him suffering from depression and therefore needed to take medication.
Sainsbury’s have admitted their guilt in unfairly dismissing Mr Tyler and stated that the reason employees are requested to get permission before leaving the store at night was for health and safety reasons.
Analysis of the case
This does, on the face of it, appear to be a fairly clear-cut case of unfair dismissal. There is no mention of what procedures the company went through in sacking Mr Tyler but it is clear that dismissing an employee for briefly leaving the store to obtain change from his car (even if it was without permission) is not generally an offence which warrants a labelling of gross misconduct and a sanction of dismissal. An employer must make a decision to dismiss that is within the reasonable range of responses in the circumstances – effectively meaning that a reasonable employer would have made the decision to dismiss. Sainsbury’s, in dismissing Mr Tyler, strayed outside the bounds of reasonableness.
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