Ms Gatehouse Jackson commenced work with the employer in October 2019 as a receptionist.
Just before the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, management told Ms Gatehouse Jackson that her performance in the role had been “excellent”. However, due to the pandemic, Ms Gatehouse Jackson was given a “temporary layoff notice” and told there was no work for her to undertake.
Ms Gatehouse Jackson did remain as an employee and, whilst there was debate as to whether she was moved to a temporary contract, she was working again from October 2020.
On 9 November, a disagreement with the hotel owner occurred about an allegation that Ms Gatehouse Jackson had upset a hotel guest due to how she spoke to her. This disagreement ended with the proprietor telling Ms Gatehouse Jackson that she had been “fired”.
There was a follow-up meeting between Ms Gatehouse Jakson and the owner. During this meeting, the owner told Ms Gatehouse Jackson she had been dismissed for gross misconduct and given a letter confirming the same.
The Tribunal enquired whether the hotel had followed any disciplinary process. The proprietor only stated that “gross misconduct was the process”.
The Tribunal was unconvinced by this explanation and awarded Ms Gatehouse Jackson £10,030.95 compensation for unfair dismissal.
In summary, the Tribunal noted that “as a relatively significant employer in Guernsey, the Tribunal is disappointed that the Respondent did not take more considered steps in their disciplinary process.”
Employers should take note: even if you are faced with a situation that appears to be ‘guaranteed’ gross misconduct, you should assess the circumstances, seek advice, put the employee on paid suspension if appropriate, and undertake an investigation.