Fag packet step-up.

A client emailed this week, wanting to issue a final written warning for the chef at his club.

He’d been drunk at work twice now, and they’d had enough.

On the face of it, that all seems sensible – it’s clearly a disciplinary offence; potentially a dismissal.

There was one teeny little snag, though: this was the first time we’d heard about any sort of disciplinary process for this member of staff.

And generally, this means one thing: it hasn’t been carried out correctly.

So it proved, when I started asking general questions – how long had the chef been there for, could they send over the investigation notes, what did the previous warnings say, and so on.

The paucity of answers made it very clear that we were NOT going to issue a final written warning.

First up, the chef had been with them for three years, so any easy dismissal was taken straight off the table.

Secondly, the “investigation notes” consisted of two handwritten sentences on a bit of scrap paper (one step up from a fag packet, but not much!).

They had got the chef to admit in writing to the drunkenness and to say they wouldn’t do it again.

But there’d been no disciplinary meeting, no right to a companion, no other witness statements, and the main witness (the house manager) was the one conducting the process when they should have had someone not involved chairing the meeting.

So, it’s back to square one – none of what’s gone on before would hold up in tribunal.

If it happens again, we’ll make sure they do it by the book, but for now, despite knowing that a member of staff should be on a final written warning, they’ve got no power to do it without risking repercussions.

A salutary lesson to us all that procedure is critical, and that fag packet notes don’t stand up in court!

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