EMPLOYMENT 

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word 

Sometimes a simple apology can go a long way – even in the complex world of employment law. This point was borne out in the case of Forster –v- McKees Farm Shop Limited (Case ref: 484/16) in which the Industrial Tribunal recently handed down its decision.

Partner Jan Cunningham advised McKees in respect of disciplinary proceedings against Mr Forster which eventually led to the termination of his employment and then represented the company when Mr Forster issued a claim for unfair dismissal.

Mr Forster had worked for McKees for a number of years and progressed to Supervisor level. The Tribunal recognised that as a consequence of his promotion the company was entitled to expect Mr Forster to set a good example to other staff. After repeated instances arriving late for work Mr Forster was late again over the busy Christmas period. On being spoken to about his time keeping Mr Forster lied to management in respect of the time he arrived at work that day. On account of this lie disciplinary proceedings were initiated by McKees.

Unfortunately during the disciplinary hearing Mr Forster displayed absolutely no contrition whatsoever for his actions. Instead he went on the offensive questioning the validity of the process and stating that he was disappointed in the way he was being treated. In arriving at the decision to dismiss, McKees took into account the fact that he did not apologise for his actions. A similar pattern followed during the appeal process, again no remorse was shown and this was taken into account when the decision to dismiss was upheld.

During the subsequent Tribunal proceedings it was emphasised by the business owners that the central issue for them was that despite his lie Mr Forster did not show any remorse or indicate any intention to improve his behaviour. The Judge opined that “the idea that the Claimant was indignant about his treatment by the employer in the middle of a disciplinary meeting suggests a degree of arrogance” and that Mr Forster “failed here to take the opportunity to try and retrieve the situation at the earliest opportunity, by apologising to his employers”. The Judge felt that this lack of remorse demonstrated that he was not prepared to change his ways. Consequently a warning would have had no effect and the sanction of dismissal was reasonable in the circumstacnes. His claim for unfair dismissal was therefore dismissed.

The lesson here for employees is that an apology can go a long way if you have done something wrong. Similarly employers should be aware that a heart felt apology given by an employee during disciplinary proceedings should be considered before determining the sanction.

Should you require any advice in relation to employee conduct or disciplinary issues please contact Millar McCall Wylie on 02890 200050 and ask to speak with a member of our Employment Team.


 

 

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