Dismissed for Having a Drink

Before dismissing an employee there is a requirement to carry out a full investigation. However, employers are often unsure what a ‘full investigation’ might be. A recent case has given some useful insights by showing us what a poor investigation looks like.

In Stokes v Poundland Ltd [2018] a Store Manager was dismissed for allegedly stealing a drink from the store. In investigating the matter CCTV evidence was shown of her carrying a drinks bottle, but there was nothing else – no CCTV footage which might have shown her taking the drink was looked at. Witness statements were not checked and till receipts were not accessed. The decision to dismiss was all made based on one person’s allegations.

She was successful in her claim of unfair dismissal and was awarded just under £21,000 in compensation.

6 Tips when Handling an Investigation

The omissions in this investigation were clearly very significant. However, how do you determine what to investigate when faced with a potential dismissal situation?

  1. Start by thinking about what you need to know. Is there some evidence that would make it clear whether or not an employee had done as alleged? Is this CCTV, some evidence from the clocking in system, or something else? Think about what you need to know to be sure.
  2. Explore that evidence and then think about what else this has led you to think about. Is there something else you now need to explore?
  3. Check who was around when the issues occurred. Take witness statements from them all. It is as important to take witness statements from people who were around and did not see anything as from those who were around and saw nothing. Why did they see nothing if they were there? Was it because there was nothing to see, and the allegations are false?
  4. When you have gathered your evidence determine whether there is an issue to address. If there is then invite the employee to a disciplinary meeting and give the employee a copy of all the evidence that you are going to rely on.
  5. If the employee has any conflicting evidence, decide whether you need to carry out a further investigation.
  6. Remember that the requirement is to decide, on the balance of probabilities, if the employee did as accused. There is not a requirement to prove that the employee is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.