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Engineer wins unfair dismissal claim after using company car and card to collect golf clubs while on furlough

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In Mr D Bailey v Design & Technical Services (UK) Ltd Daniel Bailey, who was on furlough at the time, was unfairly dismissed because he was not given prior warning he was attending an “investigation meeting”.

The hearing was told Mr Bailey began working at Design & Technical Services LTD – a machine tools company based in Lytham St Annes, Lancs – in September 2011.

His job involved using a work van to visit client sites to provide maintenance services.

He was told the vehicle was only to be used for “legitimate company business”, and long trips for personal use needed to be approved by a company director.

In February 2021, during the third national lockdown, Mr Bailey had been placed on furlough, the tribunal heard.

Feeling “lonely”, he decided to leave his home and use the van to make a 220-mile round trip to and from Birmingham to pick up some golf clubs he had been offered for free, the panel was told.

Realising he didn’t have enough fuel to get back home, the engineer bought £50 in Solihull with his company fuel card.

When the company secretary was checking the fuel receipts the following week, she noticed Mr Bailey had used the card on a date when he was furloughed, 110 miles or so away from his home, the panel was told.

As a result, his managers called him in to discuss the incident.

However, Mr Bailey was not told it was an “investigation meeting” into a potential disciplinary matter, believing it was a welfare chat, and felt “ambushed” when talk turned to his trip, the tribunal heard.

He was sacked for gross misconduct, and his subsequent appeal was turned down.

The tribunal concluded that on the “balance of probabilities” Mr Bailey had knowingly used the company card to pay for fuel on his trip to Birmingham.

But the panel also decided he was unfairly dismissed, because he was not given prior warning about the investigation meeting.

Mr Bailey was not awarded any compensation by the tribunal because it was “100 per cent inevitable that he would have been fairly dismissed on the same date as his actual dismissal had a fair procedure been followed”.

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