template contracts of employment include a provision for termination where an
employee is found guilty of a criminal offence which results in them being held
at Her Majesty’s pleasure, it is not that straight forward. A recent case
has shown that a letter in the post informing the incarcerated employee that
their employment was terminated, was unfair.
The case in
question is Harvey –v- Vista Hotels Limited which made its way into the
national press last week with the shocking headline: Head
chef sacked while in prison for biting police officer
wins £11k payout. James Harvey, a chef working in Guernsey, was sentenced
to 18 months’ imprisonment following a conviction for grievous bodily harm for
biting two special constables in Guernsey and spitting their blood on other
police officers. Mr Harvey’s employer, Vista Hotels, claimed that they sent him
a letter informing him that his employment was terminated but didn’t keep a
copy of the letter or conduct any form of investigation.
lodged a claim to Guernsey’s Employment & Discrimination Tribunal for
unfair dismissal. The Tribunal found that Vista Hotels had not followed
the correct procedure in order to dismiss Mr Harvey despite having a
potentially fair reason for the dismissal. The Tribunal criticised Vista Hotels
for not carrying out its own investigation. In particular, Vista
Hotels had made no attempt to interview Mr Harvey to obtain his version of
events prior to terminating his employment. Mr Harvey was awarded
£11,156.25 compensation for unfair dismissal. It is however worth noting
that the rules on compensation are different in Guernsey.
is a Guernsey Tribunal decision, which does not have effect in the UK, this
case highlights the importance of following your organisation’s disciplinary
procedure in all circumstances in accordance with the ACAS Code of
Practice. It is also worth remembering that just because there is a
provision within the employment contract to terminate in such circumstances,
this will not override the obligation to follow a fair disciplinary procedure.