• Man fired over Facebook ‘meat deal’ post wins employment tribunal

  • 10 Aug 2017
  • Comments 2 comments

Case a reminder to employers to make sure disciplinary procedures are followed correctly, lawyer says

A man who was fired for sharing another butcher’s ‘meat deal’ on social media has won an employment tribunal against his former employer.

Michael Hayward had worked for Noel Chadwick, described to Manchester Employment Tribunal as a small and well-respected butchers in 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 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 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.”

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  • The outcome appears to illustrate the importance of access to justice regarding employment related matters. Following the decision by the Supreme Court recently of course fees will no longer inhibit justice going forward. Thankfully, the claimant who brought this case before they were banned was able to pay and seems set to be reimbursed.

  • Hi, I'm Helen Hayward and I represented my now husband all through this procedure and tribunal and as a HR professional myself, have been able to learn a lot and apply that learning to my own company. There was no process followed and it truly does highlight that proper procedure and common sense have a huge roll to play and that HR has a significant role in risk management in any company, no matter the size. We all learn about tribunals through our CIPD training but it is very different from the other side.