A parish clerk who allegedly siphoned off £15,000 from her employer to top up her salary has been sacked for gross misconduct by her employer.

Pauline Haywood worked for Longstanton Parish Council as an administrator before she was dismissed earlier this year for gross misconduct. The allegations came to light last year after an investigation was commenced into financial mismanagement at the Parish Council.

The allegations put to Ms Haywood were that she had withdrawn £15,000 more than she was entitled to be paid between June 2009 and May 2011. The Parish Council contended that she was not entitled to pay herself these monies but Ms Haywood argued that she was entitled to receive such. A disciplinary process was therefore convened and a disciplinary panel held – by a majority – that the 13 allegations put to Ms Haywood constituted gross misconduct. She was therefore dismissed without notice.

A police investigation has since concluded that additional payments of £15,000 had been made but that there had been “no evidence” of fraud or theft as the police concluded that she held an honest belief that she was entitled to receive the relevant money.

Councillor Gill Ashby commented on the matter that “A criminal prosecution cannot take place at this time as the letter states there is insufficient evidence, though the case does remain open and should any further evidence be obtained this council will forward it immediately to the police”. He further stated that “the council is exploring whether a civil action against individuals in relation to these matters can be progressed”.

Ms Haywood could apparently not be contacted for comment and it is not currently known whether she is considering making an Employment Tribunal claim.

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case that “deceit or fraud in the workplace can be classed as gross misconduct but employers should take pains to conduct a thorough investigation and not to pre-judge the matter before making a decision whether to dismiss or not.

If employees are dismissed for gross misconduct then they are not entitled to be paid their notice pay, nor any other contractual entitlement that would have accrued up until the end of their notice period. Another substantial issue is that it is likely that they will not be provided with a reference if they are dismissed for gross misconduct.

Direct 2 Lawyers offer employment law advice to employers and employees, including advice on Employment Tribunal claims

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