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Pub couple win unlawful deduction of wages claim after brewery charged them thousands for missing beer

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In the case of Groom v Samuel Smith Old Brewery Paul and Rachel Groom were told to visit a cashpoint and draw out £480 from their wage to reimburse Samuel Smiths for gaps in stock, a tribunal heard.

The brewery also tried to deduct around £4,360 from their joint pay, despite them only earning just over the minimum wage, reports Teesside Live.

Employment judge Philip Lancaster said there was culture within the company that was “not one that encouraged managers to raise objections… even if they thought they were being unfairly treated.”

He added: “That is succinctly expressed by Mr Groom in his evidence about [Samuel Smith owner] Mr Humphrey Smith to say that Mr Smith’s attitude was effectively ‘it’s my way or the high way’.

“I cannot imagine anything that could be more demonstrative of improperly acting in a manner calculated, or likely to destroy the relationship of trust and confidence that ought to exist between an employer and an employee.

“It appears that the company was not making it at all easy for employees to register their objection to any of its somewhat dictatorial actions.”

The couple won their case for unauthorised deduction from wages, constructive unfair dismissal and breach of contract.

They had resigned from their jobs with immediate effect in July 2021 but claimed the move “amounted to a constructive dismissal” because there had been a fundamental breach of contract and a “breach of trust and confidence”.

The tribunal heard how the couple ran the pub from May 2019, after taking on the venue once Mr Groom had been relief manager for a while.

Mr and Mrs Groom said the brewery demanded they make up an “alleged £480 deficiency” in stock with a cash payment.

Later the brewery wanted to deduct £4,360 from the couple’s joint salary of £34,900, due to a clause in their employment contract over gaps in the stock levels.

Samuel Smith’s said on two other occasions, deductions of £438 and £565 had been made according to the rule “without any objection being raised by the couple”.

The judge said the brewery had “no regard for the swingeing effect” of deducting such a large amount from the salary of “people on relatively low income”.

“The respondent never carried out any purported analysis of the underlying circumstances that gave rise to these results.”

Speaking after the court hearing, Mr Groom said: “We brought the claim ourselves and were confident of success as what he tried to do was obviously clearly unfair which was proven in court.

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