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Sainsbury’s entitled to dismiss employee for gross misconduct

Sainsbury's was entitled to dismiss an employee for gross misconduct after he failed to carry out key company policy concerning staff engagement.

That was the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of an employee who had worked for the company for 26 years. At the time of his dismissal he was a regional operations manager, responsible for 20 stores.

The company had a key policy called Talkback, designed to ensure staff motivation and engagement. As part of the Talkback procedure, staff in all locations gave information in confidence about their working environment.

A human resources manager sent an email to the employee's store managers encouraging them to focus on getting their "most enthusiastic colleagues to fill in the survey". This would potentially undermine the Talkback survey results.

When the employee became aware of the email he told the HR manager to clarify what he meant with store managers. The HR manager failed to do so, and the employee did not check whether he had done so. When he became aware that the HR manager had failed to follow his instructions, he took no further action.

Sainsbury's dismissed him for gross misconduct on the basis that he had failed to take adequate steps to remedy the manipulation of the survey scores. The judge at the Employment Tribunal concluded that the employee had been in serious dereliction of his duty to the company, given his obligation to ensure that the Talkback procedure was properly carried out.

The Court of Appeal has now upheld that decision. It held that the employee's failure constituted gross misconduct because it had the effect of undermining the trust and confidence in the employment relationship.


Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article. To find out more about JPP's employment law services please visit employment law.

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