BMW Worker Sacked for Collecting Sandwiches From His Car in Unfair Dismissal Case

In a recent employment tribunal ruling of Parkinson v GI Group Recruitment Ltd, it was found that a BMW assembly plant worker who was fired for collecting sandwiches from his car on his lunch break was unfairly dismissed. Ryan Parkinson had been working at the plant through an agency and was awarded damages totaling over £16,000 for loss of earnings after he was suspended due to sandwich gate.

The case goes back to an incident in June 2018 where Mr. Parkinson left the BMW assembly site to go and buy his lunch at Burger King. Following his trip to Burger King, Mr. Parkinson was confronted by his supervisor for leaving the work site without notifying anyone and without permission. Parkinson claimed that he did tell colleagues that he was leaving who all stayed on site because they were ordering takeaway kebabs instead. An incident report was filed by management stating that Parkinson had left the premise without permission. Soon after, he was signed off due to work-related stress and anxiety.

A disciplinary hearing was set up to address the Burger King issue on Parkinson’s return to work. The disciplinary hearing resulted in a dismissal that was later changed to a final warning after a successful appeal.  However, Parkinson was soon up to his old tricks again and was later suspended for leaving the factory site to collect his lunch from the car park on two separate occasions without permission. Parkinson was ultimately sacked in November 2019 for gross misconduct. The tribunal concluded that his dismissal was ‘procedurally and substantively unfair’.

Key Takeaways for Employers

The tribunal found that the agency had not followed the correct procedures and had been too hasty in firing the worker. The main concern was that there was a failure to investigate the incidents and that it seemed to be common practice for employees to leave their site without specific approval, agreement, or notification. The employer had also made no effort to find out if this was something that other workers did and so had seemingly neglected to find any evidence that may have exonerated Parkinson.

In relation to the sandwich incidents, there was genuine confusion as to what was meant by “leaving site” and what the “site” actually was. Parkinson had assumed that the car park would be classed as “on-site”, so he did not believe that he needed permission to go and collect his lunch from his car on his lunch break. 

In addition, the company handbook contained conflicting information and mentioned multiple conflicting policies about “leaving site”, “Leaving place of work”, “leaving section”, “Leaving plant”, “Walking offline/site”. So the employer could not rely on a clear policy that could support their decision to dismiss the employee. The lesson here is to ensure that all policies are clear and that employees are aware of what is expected of them and what constitutes a disciplinary issue.

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