HR compliance is not always straightforward

It’s a complicated time for employers and staff. A lot of people have been switching jobs, while others are concerned about the impact on their rights and job security if they switch roles. Changing jobs can bring with it an opportunity, but also concern about conditions and rights to flexible working and other benefits which have rapidly become standard.

A recent case on unfair dismissal is an important reminder that some claims for unfair dismissal can be made even without the need for two years’ continuous service.

Stax Converting Limited – What happened?

A factory worker, Craig Jewell, has won over £8,000 after he was sacked for taking a day off to accompany his pregnant partner for a hospital scan. Mr Jewell tried to book annual leave for the emergency appointment from Stax Converting Limited in Wigan, as well as being able to take his six-year-old daughter to school.

After submitting the request, his line manager Garren Lowndes told him: “Can you f**k have Monday off.” Mr Jewell then tried to take ‘dependent leave’ but the online booking system did not work. He informed his line manager, Mr Lowndes, over the phone, but was brought into a disciplinary meeting when he returned to work.

The managing director intervened on this occasion to prevent Mr Jewell from being sacked, but when he applied for paternity leave, Mr Jewell was sacked the following day. He was accused of: “not following company rules in relation to holiday procedures where you did not give sufficient notice and when refused the time off did not attend work.”

Despite having served in the role for less than two years, Mr Jewell brought a claim under the Employment Rights Act (ERA) for unfair dismissal. There are certain reasons in the ERA which automatically make dismissal unfair. One of these, as noted by the judge in the tribunal case, is “an employee’s right to take time off to provide assistance on an occasion when a dependent falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted or to make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependent who is ill or injured.”

The tribunal found that Mr Jewell had complied with the requirement to make his request for leave in October 2018 “as soon as reasonably practicable” and also that his manager had held the unauthorised absence against him. This made the dismissal automatically unfair.

Unfair dismissal – Lessons for employers

The case is a reminder to employers about their policies around time off to care for others. Throughout the pandemic, people were required to make different arrangements to care for family members and dependents. Allowing flexible working by default is one simple method to avoid unnecessary requests for time off and these kinds of situations.

Where flexible working is not available, employers should be cautious about strict approaches to time-off requests and company procedures that do not allow for flexibility around requests for time off to support dependents and family members.

Use our reporting and tracking solution for annual leave requests

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With Omnitrack, staff can easily input any time off they require, be it for medical reasons, childcare responsibilities or a holiday. Administrators can then instantly view the request and decide on the next step.

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