The £15,000 Text Message…

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.


  • Martin Kaye

    Martin Kaye have provided advice in some highly complex HR matters and they continue to provide our day to day HR advice through their "ALPHA" HR scheme. They offer a very commercial and pragmatic approach and we have always been impressed by the level of service. The members of staff are approachable and easy to deal with.

    Eurofilms Extrusion Ltd

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    Martin Kaye have provided us with employment and HR advice for several years and we have been very pleased with the level of service and quality of advice provided. We have no hesitation in recommending the team to any organisation which wishes to manage its employment related enquiries.

    D Wauchope, Company Secretary - McPhillips (Wellington) Ltd

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    As a large employer of cleaning personnel, we require expert and prompt employment related advice. Martin Kaye's "ALPHA" service provides this in a clear and robust manner. We have been extremely impressed with the service and would thoroughly recommend them to any employer requiring expert HR & employment support.

    J Conry, Chairman - JPC Cleaning

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    ALPHA is an excellent, reliable, professional service which is an integrated part of our business that we could not do without.  This service is part of our structure and provides staff and business with the professional HR Support it requires - Invaluable

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