‘Pulling a sickie’ is viewed by some workers as not particularly serious – however, an important Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision has emphasised that such dishonesty can amount to gross misconduct and give grounds for dismissal.
A bus driver alleged that he had slipped over on spilt water in a workplace toilet and badly injured himself. He went on sick leave, claiming that he was incapable of doing his job. However, his employer suspected that the accident had been staged, or that he had exaggerated his injuries, and placed him under covert surveillance.
He was dismissed on the basis that he had tried to perpetrate a fraud but an Employment Tribunal (ET) subsequently upheld his complaints of unfair and wrongful dismissal. Although the ET accepted that he had deliberately exaggerated his injuries, it found that there was no evidence that he had in fact been capable of sitting down for the long periods required in order to drive a bus. He was awarded compensation on the basis that he was 35 per cent responsible for his own dismissal.
In upholding the employer’s appeal and stripping the man of his award, the EAT ruled that anyone who dishonestly asserts that they are unfit for work through illness or injury is guilty of a fundamental breach of the trust and confidence which lie at the heart of any employment relationship. The employer had a genuine and reasonable belief, based on reasonable investigation, that the man had attempted to commit fraud and, in upholding his claim, the ET had impermissibly substituted its own view of the facts for that of the employer.