Belfast Telegraph

Co Antrim Delivery firm ordered to pay £5k over unfair dismissal of driver

A Co Antrim freight firm has been ordered to pay over £5,000 in compensation to a former employee after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed. (stock photo)
A Co Antrim freight firm has been ordered to pay over £5,000 in compensation to a former employee after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed. (stock photo)
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A Co Antrim freight firm has been ordered to pay over £5,000 in compensation to a former employee after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed.

Stephen Hare took the case against Crumlin-based Beatties Distribution Services Ltd, where he worked as a delivery driver for three years.

In January 2018 Mr Hare applied for a similar job with another company and he was interviewed the following month.

In March 2018 he received a letter from his prospective new employer confirming that his application had been successful.

The letter made clear that the job offer was subject to satisfactory references and a verifiable five-year history.

Mr Hare accepted the job offer, but then changed his mind.

He did not tell his current employers that he was intending to leave, nor did he inform his prospective new employer that he had decided not to take up their job offer.

Operations manager at Beatties Distribution Services, Mark Laughlin, learned of Mr Hare's job offer when he received an email from his prospective new employer.

The email stated that he would be starting his new job with them on April 9 and included a request for references and a questionnaire. The industrial tribunal in Belfast heard that Mr Laughlin was unable to contact Mr Hare to discuss this as he was out doing his deliveries.

On his evidence, Mr Laughlin planned to speak to him the next morning, but Mr Hare was off sick and then went on pre-arranged annual leave.

Mr Laughlin conceded that he was "not 100% sure" from the information he received that the employee was leaving.

When Mr Laughlin replied to the questionnaire from Mr Hare's new employers, he said he would not re-employ the applicant, stating that he had suffered a heart attack the previous year and was "only capable of delivering reduced numbers".

Mr Hare told the tribunal that his heart condition had only caused him to be absent from work for four weeks in 2017.

On April 5 Mr Laughlin wrote to Mr Hare stating that the new employer had contacted the firm "to state that you will be starting new employment with them" and therefore his contract with Beatties had been terminated.

The letter was sent by recorded delivery. Mr Hare claimed that he did not receive it until he returned to work after his leave on April 9, although it appeared from the evidence that it had been signed for two days previously. When he returned to work, Mr Hare was unable to clock in or gain access to the computerised work allocation system.

He spoke to Mr Laughlin, who read out the letter he claimed not to have received before he went to work that morning.

Mr Hare explained to Mr Laughlin that he had decided not to take the other job, but Mr Laughlin told him that he had already found a replacement.

Mr Hare was then told to leave the premises.

He was due to receive his month's pay on April 15, 2018 but when it did not arrive he contacted Beatties' accountant.

He was informed that his pay was being withheld because he had been responsible for accidental damage to one of the firm's vans in December 2017.

Mr Hare accepted that he was responsible and had £600 deducted from his final pay.

However, the hearing was told that the van had not been repaired and the firm did not produce any evidence of an estimated cost.

Beatties argued during the hearing that Mr Hare had resigned from their firm and relied upon the email from his prospective new employer.

This claim was disputed by Mr Hare, who argued that the company could not properly rely upon the word of a third party.

The tribunal ruled that Mr Hare had been unfairly dismissed by Beatties, which was "motivated by nothing less than spite, with the sole intention of sabotaging the claimant's new employment".

It also found that the £600 deduction from his final pay was unfair and "similarly vindictive".

Beatties was ordered to pay compensation totalling £5,106 to Mr Hare.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph