A lorry driver sacked from his job after he was spotted drinking and smoking outside a social club while on sick leave was unfairly dismissed, according to an employment tribunal.
Colin Kane, 66, was a driver for Ryton-based surfacing firm Debmat and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It meant he had periods of absence due to ill-health and it was during one of these that he was spotted by a colleague at a social club in March 2020. Debmat’s MD John Turner later phoned Kane, who told him he had been in bed all day, although he later admitted to being at the social club for 15 minutes one day and 30 minutes on another. The driver was then told he was being investigated for “dishonesty and breach of company regulations”. At a disciplinary meeting led by the MD, Kane was dismissed and in a follow-up letter it said he was guilty of a serious and wilful breach of the company’s rules, which was considered to be gross misconduct.
However, an employment tribunal found that Debmat’s investigation was flawed. Judge Pitt said there were errors in making a proper record of the allegations against Kane.
In his judgment, he said: “There is no rule the respondent can point to, which says that an employee cannot socialise in whatever way they deem appropriate whilst absent from work through illness.” Among other failings, the Judge also said it was also inappropriate for the MD to deal with the disciplinary hearing as he was the person who took the initial complaint.