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Employment Law Case Update: Hayward v Noel Chadwick Ltd

Jun 8, 2017

In the case of Hayward v Noel Chadwick Ltd, Mr Hayward bought a claim of unfair dismissal and breach of contract against his ex-employer, family butchers firm Noel Chadwick Ltd.  The respondent had accepted that due process was not followed and consequently the dismissal of Mr Hayward constituted unfair dismissal. 

The decision the tribunal was having to make was whether any compensation should be reduced on the Polkey Principle -  ie: that if a proper process had been followed he would have been dismissed in any event. The tribunal also had to look at whether Mr Hayward contributed to his dismissal and therefore whether a further reduction had to be made for contributory fault.

Mr Hayward had worked for the respondent, a butcher’s business, for seven and a half years. The respondent believed there had been a breach of their social media policy, and before they had a meeting with the claimant regarding this, they had decided to dismiss him.  The claimant had been ‘pulled up’ for his use of social media in the past but had received no warning.  The social media post which the claimant was dismissed for was a Facebook message to his girlfriend where he gave information about the price of meat from an online distributor, not the respondent. The respondent called the post an ‘advertisement’ but the tribunal disagreed as the online distributor was not a direct competitor of the respondent.

The respondent failed procedurally on many points; the claimant was not given a letter asking him to attend a meeting, there was no warning that the disciplinary could lead to his dismissal, the claimant was not given the opportunity to have someone with him at the meeting, he was not allowed to explain the situation and he was not offered an appeal.

The tribunal concluded that Mr Hayward was not in breach of the social media policy as the post did not cause the respondent any financial loss or reputational damage.  The extent of what Mr Hayward did was act a little disloyally in recommending his girlfriend buy meat at a good price from another company.  Therefore Mr Hayward did not contribute to his dismissal.  The tribunal also concluded that there was no evidence to show that had a disciplinary process been properly carried out, the claimant would have been dismissed.

Mr Hayward was awarded the full compensation package with no reductions, and a 25 per cent increase due to the respondent’s breach of the ACAS code. The total sum Mr Hayward was awarded was £6,091.

If a social media policy is well established and understood by all employees then they will be aware of what is and is not acceptable.  It should be made clear that an employee’s personal use of social media may impact the company and could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal.  It is then necessary for employers to follow a fair procedure if an employee is found to have misused social media. 

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.