Employers rejoice – the eternal battlefield of employment law has made a small but significant shift in favour of the employer.
And it’s in the area of disciplinaries.
Some employees are extremely canny when it comes to the disciplinary procedure.
They’ll push and push and push until it seems they can push no more, and they’ll receive a final written warning for their trouble.
Then they’ll commit a completely unrelated offence; one that has no relationship to the original offence.
Can you dismiss them for the unrelated offence?
Well, you couldn’t. But now you can.
Until now, that scenario would have seen you having to restart the process from the beginning, with each separate offence being treated as a separate issue.
Now it’s all changed.
The Court of Appeal – whose rulings are binding on us mere mortals – has now ruled that where an employee has been given a final written warning, which is live, it is only in exceptional circumstances that any further misconduct will not be met with dismissal.
This is the case regardless of whether the new disciplinary offence was serious enough in itself to warrant the employee’s dismissal, i.e. it could be a relatively minor matter.
This means that the default is that an employee WILL be dismissed for further disciplinary infractions if they are on final written warning, regardless of whether those further infractions are related to the original transgression.
This gives you a huge amount of freedom to deal with those canny employees who think they are being clever in their irritation activities. They won’t have heard about this ruling, so they will carry on regardless – and be dismissed, which will turn out to be a fair dismissal, to their chagrin!
P.S. You do still need to follow the ACAS guidelines. But as long as you do that, you will have managed to part company with a drain on your resources and still avoid a tribunal!