Even When Misconduct Is Proven, Avoid Instant Dismissal

Picture credit: Flickr Commons, Morecombe Bus by Historic Images Lancashire.

It may have been the last straw at the end of a very long week. You felt let down, embarrassed and humiliated by an employee’s behaviour. Frankly, you’d like them to go.

It’s tempting to proceed directly to dismissal when it’s obvious misconduct has occurred. However, it is always better to have a cooling off period. Time to consider all the circumstances and come to a decision as to whether this is a fair call only when these have been well thought through.

A recent case of a bus driver who had run a red light is a perfect example of one which would have benefitted from more time and more calm consideration. The driver won his case for unfair dismissal, after a judge ruled that a “five second” lapse in judgement should not discount more than 30 years of good service.

Abdul Jabbar worked for National Express West Midlands for 37 years. Although the 59-year-old driver did not deny that he had skipped the lights, he claimed the company’s decision to sack him was too harsh and was inconsistent with the treatment of other drivers involved in similar incidences. While Jabbar acknowledged that the incident was not “trivial”, he noted it was the type of offence that other employees had received warnings or final warnings. Before the incident took place, the bus driver had neither been involved in a driving accident nor received a driving penalty for 32 years.

In handing down the judgment, judge Glyn Lloyd accepted that Jabbar’s actions were “a five-second momentary lapse of concentration on his part, by a driver who sits in the cab facing the unpredictable environment of busy city roads eight to 10 hours each day”. Final elements of the case are still being resolved with claims of race and age discrimination also linked; things are by no means straightforward.

The dismissal element of the case is a stark warning for other employers, situations such as these are never cut and dried (no matter how severe you feel the misconduct). It is always best to get professional HR advice to ensure you follow fair and correct procedures. Keep things cool and calm this summer!

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