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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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I am on suspension awaiting a date for a disciplinary. I have

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I am on suspension awaiting a date for a disciplinary. I have worked for the company for 14 years with no poor record in all of that time, I am a manager. I have been diagnosed with depression and told my deputy store manager that I had ran out of tablets and was worried about the shift the next day as it would be very busy. I started work at 07.15 and at 17.00 a colleague came to see me to see if I had managed to have a break yet, which I hadn't. The store manager told me to stop and have a drink, I burst into tears. Once back in control the store manager told me to grab a drink and take 5 minutes. I grabbed a cup of tea, sat down and drank it. I am now being accused of theft for not paying for it. Should I get legal advice or do you think I have enough for mitigating circumstances?

Ben Jones : Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Are you usually expected to pay for the tea at work?

yes, however it has been the normal practice of the previous manager to have free drinks and get free drinks for the management team

Ben Jones :

Hi sorry my connection dropped earlier. Has the employer said what the potential outcome of the disciplinary could be?


No they haven't. They have said that my suspension isn't a prerequisite of guilt


I was asked why I had not told anyone about my Store manager and free food and drinks and I said that he would make my life hell if I did and he has got away so many times with bullying and grievances that what would the point be. He is a senior store manager for the south west

Ben Jones :

It is correct that suspension is not an indication of guilt. It is just a precautionary measure whilst the employer investigates the allegations against you and decides whether it is going to lead to formal disciplinary action. They could drop the case before that and leave it at the investigatory stage or they could decide that it warrants a disciplinary.


If this goes to a disciplinary then I would say the employer's actions would be rather harsh. We are talking about a cup of tea, in fact just a tea bag as I don't think hot water is chargeable...This was not taken by you intentionally with the motive of stealing it. In fact under criminal law to be guilty of theft you need to have the pre-determined intention to steal something to be guilty of theft. You were in the middle of a depressive episode and were obviously experiencing anxiety and worried about the situation. You took the drink on the advice of a manager and in the circumstances you can be forgiven for not remembering to pay for it.


Any disciplinary action will be disproportionate here. You did not take a TV, computer, was just a cup of tea and there is also history of other taking drinks without paying for them. So there is a culture of these 'offences' and with the circumstances surrounding the events when it all happened you can be forgiven for what you did. So any disciplinary would be harsh in my view and even if it proceeds, it should not result in anything else than a warning. If they are looking to dismiss then they are really pushing the limits of fairness.


At this stage taking legal advice is pointless - there is nothing a lawyer can do as this is an internal issue and they cannot get involved. You will only be able to seek legal advice once a decision has been made. You can appeal it yourself first and then you van consider your options - if you are dismissed then you can certainly consider a claim for unfair dismissal. If you are issued with a warning - you can consider the grievance process. All will become clearer once this disciplinary matter has been completed.


Ben Jones :

Please let me know if this has answered your query or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this?

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