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Well, there is no surprises for guessing whose blog it is this week.  Let us get our detective hat on…..its Wednesday and the blog is only just coming through – that’s right, it is your favourite infinitely late personEmma Tice!!!  You would be disappointed if I was on time right!!??

In my defence, I have an absolute great excuse – what a manic weekend.  Both the Tice kids were in their dance show.  Now, this isn’t any old “just turn up, put a dress on and dance”  oh, no, no, no……… it’s a whole weekend of intenseness!!!  From 8am on Saturday when I started my first double French plait into a bun to arriving home at 8.45pm on Sunday evening it was FULL ON!!!!  Over the weekend, I did 8 lots of hair and 6 lots of make up, watched 3 dance shows which were beyond awesome I must say…and clapped, cheered and sung my way through the weekend.

The girls were all amazing but my goodness watching your babies dance is awesome.  Jess is now on pointe in ballet which was magical and a real tear jerking moment and Emmie is no longer my baby – super professional dancing, no waving at me this time (until the very end of course!) – and all this on the back of what was a very special birthday week for Rob…and the celebrations on that front continue….so I think I have an excuse for being late (don’t I always!!??)

Anyway………..less of that …… back to the law stuff (btw there is a purposeful absence of any football talk from my end – and I will not be engaging!!)

A case in the tribunal has caught my eye where an employee was awarded £37,310.05 for pregnancy and maternity discrimination after she was “not permitted to return to work” after her maternity leave and had been accused by the company of “making up” the money she was owed for her maternity pay when this was late and not enough.

The case is  H Todd v S Collins and others.

The employee was a Business Accounts Manager and she had 19 years unblemished service; she was dismissed by her employer during her maternity leave by way of an email from the company director who stated the reason as gross misconduct due to “misappropriation of funds”. This followed the employee’s assertion that her maternity pay had not been correct and too low, and that it had also been paid to her late.

The tribunal had “no hesitation in finding substantive failures by the respondents to follow the Acas code of practice on disciplinary procedures”, as well as finding that the employer was “dismissive and unsupportive”, making the judge believe that the employee’s maternity leave and pay was a problem for the company that they could do without, highlighting that the real reason for dismissal was, in fact, the employee’s maternity leave (hence pregnancy and maternity discrimination).

The dismissal email from the company stated, in part: “I have reviewed your claims regarding working hours and holidays due in relation to those hours and found them to be inaccurate; you have also made direct threats in relation to moneys you inaccurately claim to be owed. After conducting an investigation into the misappropriation of funds, we have found that you have engaged in behaviour that is a clear violation of company policy and is unacceptable. Your actions have breached the trust of the company. As a result of your misconduct, we have no choice but to terminate your employment with immediate effect.” The employee submitted an appeal which was not responded to.

The inconsistencies in pay that the employee was raising were due to changes in the national minimum wage rates. The tribunal found that the employee was paid incorrectly, and was also paid late on a number of occasions, meaning that she had to chase this up during her maternity leave. When asked to explain why the payments were late, the company director merely stated that he had been “busy” (can you believe it?!)

Clearly, the employee here was treated terribly, and we would hope that all of our followers and especially clients reading this would know better, but this case and the outcome highlights exactly what you should not be doing. It also serves as a really important reminder of the importance of following Acas, and having a clear paper trial of investigations and hearing what the accused employee has to say in their defence if you are conducting a disciplinary against them. It also highlights that a tribunal will look at everything in context of what else had been happening at the time.

No matter your size, or how many employees you have, you will be held responsible for any breaches of employment law: being “too busy” to get the basics right won’t amount to a defence. Although, in this case, it’s also of note that the employer just failed to submit a defence and also only briefly attended the tribunal hearing itself. Obviously, if you’re a Precept client, we will be making sure you submit a proper defence and are properly represented at any hearings (subject, of course, to your instructions!)

If you find yourself in hot water with an employee, you know who to call. (That’s us by the way – not the Ghostbusters who will be of no use).