Demoting an Employee for Poor Management

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Some reassurance for employers faced with gross misconduct issues follows a recent tribunal case relating to a pub manager from Derby, which also highlights the need for all businesses to have a robust social media policy in place. Footage of a disabled customer falling over in the pub was uploaded to YouTube by a pub employee and was subsequently viewed over 600 times which was not only humiliating for the customer but very damaging to the pub’s brand. When it became known to the pub manager that one of her employees had filmed and published the video footage on YouTube, she failed to deal with the matter adequately. He was only given a verbal warning. The Manager failed to make sure the film was removed from YouTube and never informed her Manager of the issue. Three months later, a senior manager heard about the film from a friend at which time the pub owner dismissed the employee responsible for filming and uploading the footage and also took disciplinary action against the pub manager. Although the pub owner considered that the pub manager’s actions constituted gross misconduct, it was decided to demote her to Assistant Manager at another of their pubs due to her previous good record with the company. The pub manager appealed against this decision but this was not upheld and so she resigned and made a claim for unfair dismissal, claiming that her demotion was too severe an outcome, and suggested that further management training would have been more appropriate in the circumstances. The Employment Tribunal agreed with the Company that they would have been within their rights to dismiss her for gross misconduct and that the demotion was lenient and fell well within the range of reasonable responses open to a reasonable employer. The Judge agreed that the Pub Manager should have at the very least given the employee a written warning or even dismissed him for filming and uploading the footage and said that the Company was “correct in having serious concerns about the claimant’s managerial judgement”. The conclusion of the Tribunal was that the company had acted reasonably and the Pub Manager’s claim therefore failed. Managerial staff should be trained in how to deal appropriately with disciplinary issues and in particular, gross misconduct. Employees should understand what actions could potential lead to disciplinary action being taken and the type of actions that may constitute gross misconduct and therefore summary dismissal. This should be included in an employee handbook, together with a policy on social media.

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