The £15,000 Text Message…

Victoria Shepherd

Victoria Shepherd

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Phone 01952 278585

18 November 2015

You may be aware that short service employees (that is, those with less than two years’ continuous service) do not have a general right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. However, there are some exceptions that you should be aware of. One of these relates to employees who are dismissed in connection with them asserting a statutory right.

In this instance, an employee believed he was being paid below the minimum wage and raised this with his manager. The following day he phoned in sick and later sent a text message to enquire about when he was next needed. The expletive laden reply, which referred to “b******t sickness excuses” concluded with the sentence “We don’t want you back”. This short sentence was to prove very costly…

The employee was adamant that his dismissal was nothing to do with the sickness absence and was, in fact, due to his query regarding the National Minimum Wage. He brought a successful tribunal claim, during the course of which it was found that he was routinely paid below the legal minimum and he subsequently received over £15,000 in compensation.

Whilst underpayment of the minimum wage is undoubtedly an illegal act, it is worth noting that following sound sickness absence procedures may well have avoided this costly conclusion. We would certainly never advise that this kind of communication is conducted via text message.

Suspected fraudulent sickness absence is a problem many employers face. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this employer dealt with it extremely poorly, but at Alpha we can help provide clear, commercial advice on how to avoid these issues with minimal headaches and without having to write a big cheque for compensation. If you are interested in how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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