The handling of an employee misconduct case can be a complicated process, which needs careful management, as unfair dismissal can lead to costly compensation claims for employers.

This was perfectly illustrated in a recent case in which a Poundland store manager was awarded £21,000 in compensation after being unfairly dismissed for allegedly stealing a drink.

Miss Stokes had worked at Poundland since 2009. During that time she had been promoted to store manager and was initially successful in her position until a new area sales manager joined the company.

In June 2017, the store received an unannounced visit from the area sales manager and an assistant manager who had come to investigate a claim that Miss Stokes had taken drinks from the damaged stock area.

Miss Stokes was shown a few seconds of CCTV footage showing her walking with a drink in her hand.

An investigation meeting was then held, during which Miss Stokes recalled finding some out-of-date drinks on the shop floor but could not recall walking into her office consuming a drink. She said she had been exhausted at the time of the alleged incident due to working excessively over the past month with no assistant manager.

Miss Stokes was suspended and forbidden from contacting staff. No further investigations were carried out. No statements were taken from witnesses and no report was produced.

The former store manager lodged a grievance with HR stating that the supervisor had acted maliciously and that the investigation had not been carried out fairly. Following this she was dismissed by letter with alleged theft being cited as the reason for her dismissal.

The case went to an Employment Tribunal where the judge found that the store had followed a flawed investigation process and there had been no reasonable basis to prove Miss Stokes had been guilty of misconduct.

This outcome highlights the importance of employers following the correct steps in handling employment-related matters to avoid the escalation into a tribunal. Getting advice from an employment solicitor at an early stage can help to ensure correct processes are followed and expensive compensation claims avoided.

At Beswicks we offer a HR service which provides unlimited access to qualified employment lawyers who are available to advise on employment queries 24/7. If you would like more information about this service or have a question about any employment matter, please contact laura.franklin@beswicks.com or phone 01782 205000.