Wigan Employee Wins Employment Tribunal after being sacked over Facebook ‘meat deal’ private post to Girl Friend
Chadwick’s (The Chadwick Family’s Emporium of Fine Foods), in Standish are in trouble again after sacking an employee Michael Hayward, of over seven years employment after he shared a private Facebook post a to his then girlfriend Helen Bennett. The post to Helen recommended a firm called Fresh Meat Packs North West Ltd who supply discount meats of similar quality but at a much cheaper price.
After Michael Hayward was fired for sharing another butcher’s ‘meat deal’ on Facebook he then took his former employer Noel Chadwick of Standish Wigan to an employment tribunal at a personal cost of £1,200 and won.
Michael had worked for Noel Chadwick, described to Liverpool Employment Tribunal as a small and well-respected butchers in Standish Wigan, for seven and a half years before he was dismissed for recommending a discount from online retailer Fresh Meat Packs North West to his then-girlfriend on Facebook.
Hayward was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct and breach of contract by father and son directors John and Paul Chadwick for ‘advertising’ what they believed to be a competitor and breaching the company’s social media policy. The company, which employs 42 people, is run by managing director Paul Chadwick, whose father, John, is chairman. Paul’s mum and two sisters also work in the business. The tribunal heard the pair, whose business did not have a formal HR function, had already decided to dismiss Hayward before they brought him into a disciplinary meeting in April 2016.
The 37-year-old said he was not issued a written or verbal formal warning, despite requesting one, nor was he given the opportunity to have someone with him at the meeting or given an explanation regarding his actions. As no appeal was arranged within a few weeks of his sacking, Hayward eventually lost confidence in Noel Chadwick and did not follow up the matter.
The Liverpool tribunal also heard that Hayward had been ‘pulled up’ on his use of social media before he posted the offer, but there was no warning given to him that suggested such behaviour could lead to his dismissal.
Allowing Hayward’s unfair dismissal claim, Judge Keith Robinson called Noel Chadwick “fanciful” for suggesting it experienced any financial or reputational loss because of the Facebook post.
“Hayward’s misdemeanour, if one can call it that, was minor,” the judge continued. “This is not an advertisement; this [matter] was a wholly mishandled dismissal root and branch. The claimant was dismissed summarily in a process that was reprehensible.”
The judge awarded Hayward a £6,091 payout – £4,891 in lost wages and compensation, and £1,200 to reimburse his tribunal fees.
Victoria Davies, managing associate in Addleshaw Goddard’s employment group, told People Management the case reflected the importance of creating and following a full and fair disciplinary process before dismissing an employee for any reason.
“It is well established that employers can take action to protect their business where employees overstep the mark outside of work on social media,” she said. “However, this is a salutary reminder that employers must make sure disciplinary allegations are properly drafted to fairly reflect any wrongdoing, there is a sufficient connection with their work and there are reasonable grounds to support summarily dismissing an employee for gross misconduct.”
Paul Chadwick said Noel Chadwick accepted that it had not followed the correct dismissal procedure in this case, and “graciously accepted the judge’s decision and the compensation awarded to the claimant”.
Chadwick added: “We would like to take this opportunity to urge other small-to-medium businesses to ensure that their HR team is doing their job properly and, if they do not have an HR team, to enlist the services of a professional HR consultancy for the protection of both employer and employee.”
Case a reminder to employers to make sure disciplinary procedures are followed correctly, lawyer says.