Company Handbook Case Study

Company Handbook Case Study

An employee who trained for an alternative career whilst on paid sick leave was fairly dismissed, despite the company having no specific policy relating to this, due to a well worded rule detailed in the Company Handbook

The Case

An employee was absent from work for several months due to headaches, neck pain and back pain. During this period of absence, he began taking lessons to train as a driving instructor. He did not ask his employer for permission to do this, and when his manager asked him about the lessons (making it clear that if he was taking a training course in driving whilst off sick and receiving sick pay it would be deemed as misconduct) he denied he had taken any lessons during his period of absence. The employee then continued taking further lessons, again without seeking permission from the company, and so he was dismissed for gross misconduct. The employee brought a claim for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal

The Tribunal Decision

The tribunal found the facts of the case to be:

  • The employee was absent from work suffering from headaches, neck pain and back pain and was in receipt of sick pay throughout that time
  • His contract of employment specified his working hours as being from 8.30 to 5pm, Monday to Friday
  • During the period of sickness absence, the employee began taking lessons to train as a driving instructor. He did not ask his employer for permission to do so
  • The company did not have any specific policy or procedure that stipulated an employee could not take training for a paid career, or undertake any other paid employment, whilst employed by the company or whilst absent from work due to illness
  • The company did, however, have a ‘Company Handbook’ that included a section titled "Private Business and Other Paid Employment” which stated that no employee was allowed to “engage in any other form of paid or unpaid activity, other than that of the Company, during working hours” without permission from the company

The Tribunal ultimately decided that the dismissal of the employee was fair because the wording of the relevant part of the Company Handbook was clear, stating that “The facts are not in dispute, it is clear that the Claimant was in breach of the Respondent's policy and once the whole circumstances surrounding, and reasons for, his dismissal are taken into account, the only conclusion that could be reached by a reasonable Employment Tribunal is that the dismissal was a fair one.”

Case Summary

This case highlights the benefit of having a comprehensive Company Handbook. Where a rule or practice may not in itself seem to fit within existing policies and procedures, but is important to the company, then detailing this within a Company Handbook allows you to manage employees in line with your expectations and demonstrate to an employment tribunal that the practice is in fact a company policy


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.