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Boss sacks employee via TripAdvisor – can they do that?

By September 5, 2017 No Comments

Today we read about the story of an employer sacking a long-term employee via TripAdvisor.

Howard Spooner, the owner of gastro pub The Outside Chance has been criticised by members of the public after his wife Lucy seemingly announced the immediate dismissal of service staffer Rosie Lampard on the popular review website.

Mrs Spooner was responding to a poor review from a customer, who allegedly received sub-standard service from Ms Lampard.

Although it could probably be agreed that there are better ways to communicate the dismissal of a member of staff, have the employers actually done anything majorly wrong in this case?

It’s impossible to see what truly happened behind the scenes, but they – like any business – should be sure to follow the correct procedure before dismissing.

Fair dismissal

From the report, we can see that Ms Lampard has worked at the gastro pub since 2008. This means that she has far more than the two years’ service needed in order to have the right not to be unfairly dismissed.

For a dismissal to be fair, the employer must give a fair reason for the dismissal and be seen to have acted reasonably. Reasons that can be ‘fair’ will relate to:

  1. Capability or qualifications to do the job
  2. Conduct (including gross misconduct)
  3. Redundancy
  4. Statutory illegality
  5. Some other ‘substantial’ reason not covered by the reasons above

In the case of The Outside Chance, it appears they believe that Ms Lampard has poor conduct when dealing with customers, citing the TripAdvisor review that Mrs Spooner replied to plus the “many other complaints” mentioned by Mr Spooner.

Acting reasonably

There are no set rules on how an employer can act ‘reasonably’ when dismissing an employee, as it will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. However, it can be agreed that the employer should give an employee a chance to improve through a set disciplinary procedure, with informal warnings, an investigation, and disciplinary hearings preceding a dismissal in most cases.

We don’t know what procedure The Outside Chance has in place, but Mr Spooner said: “The particular member of staff had been trained for nine years, yet failed to be able to be civil to customers consistently, attracting constant complaints on numerous occasions.

“We did persevere with her but, in the end, we have found ourselves apologising for her attitude constantly. In the end I had no choice but to sack Rosie. I gave her every opportunity to explain about the original TripAdvisor review.”

Notice period

Now that the employers have notified the employee that she is being dismissed (hopefully in person rather than just on TripAdvisor), they must be sure to provide the correct notice pay.

An alternative is to allow the employee to work their notice, but as Ms Lampard is being “sacked today” that would probably be inappropriate this time.

Employees are entitled to a minimum amount of notice depending on how long they have been continuously employed. Employers must:

  1. Provide one week’s notice to employees with at least one month, but less than two years’ service.
  2. Provide two weeks’ notice to employees with two years’ service.
  3. Provide an extra week’s notice for each further year of continuous employment up to a maximum of 12 weeks’ notice for service of 12 years or more.
  4. Pay employees at their normal rate during their notice period.

Overall, the wording of the employer’s statement, plus it being posted on a very public forum, has led to this case generating considerable negative publicity. However, they could have followed the correct procedure for quite some time with it only culminating in the dismissal now. The key would be to prove that if the case is brought before an Employment Tribunal.

To learn more about how to conduct a disciplinary procedure and dismiss an employee fairly, download our free guide.

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