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Employment Law Advice on Food-Related Offences at Work

Liam A Entwistle

Published byLiam A Entwistle

23rd February 2024

Employment Law Advice on Food-Related Offences at Work

Is eating leftover food at work a sackable offence? This is the debate that's been raging on in the wake of the viral story that involved a cleaner being axed from her contractor after allegedly eating a discarded £1.50 tuna sandwich.

The 39-year-old woman has now begun legal proceedings against the company, claiming she was unfairly dismissed.

Instances like these are not uncommon, and while the specifics of each case vary, there are crucial lessons for employers to heed.

Liam Entwistle, our employment law expert, sheds light on the topic.

Liam said: "Instances like these are more common than you might expect. While the specifics of this case are still under review, and without commenting on the merits of the case, there are several key takeaways for employers.

"Firstly, for employers using subcontracted workers, make sure that there is effective communication with everyone, and what you want to do is fully understood. Transparent communication fosters a productive working relationship.

"Using subcontractors doesn't absolve employers of legal liabilities - in this case there are allegations of unfair dismissal and discrimination against the client.

"Regardless of the facts and the eventual outcome, the optics of this situation are not good. It's crucial to remember that, even with robust policies, the human element can sometimes lead to unforeseen complications.

"Aligning disciplinary actions with company policies doesn’t make a decision immediately fair. For example, a zero-tolerance stance on theft could justify dismissal, but the decision must still be reasonable and within the band of reasonable responses.

“So, even if you do have a zero-tolerance policy for theft, if you dismiss someone for say, for example, eating a biscuit, you do run the risk of being found to be making a dismissal that is unfair.”

 

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