A genuine and honest belief that an employee is guilty of gross misconduct is not, by itself, a viable defence to an unfair dismissal claim. An Employment Tribunal (ET) made that point in awarding compensation to a restaurant waitress who was sacked after being accused of pilfering money from the till.
On reviewing the restaurant’s accounts, its owner said he discovered that till receipts were down by modest but round figures on a number of days. Referring to his diary entries, he asserted that the waitress was the only member of staff working on all of those days. She vehemently denied being a thief but was dismissed following a disciplinary process.
Upholding her unfair dismissal claim, the ET accepted that the owner held a genuine belief that she had stolen money from the till. However, it was not satisfied that his belief was a reasonable one or that the findings against her were based upon a reasonable investigation.
The ET accepted her account of the restaurant as a somewhat chaotic workplace in which till discrepancies were a not infrequent occurrence. The allegations she faced were inconsistent with the diary entries disclosed to the ET and were based on an assumption that cash shortfalls were rare on days when she was not on duty. She was awarded more than £4,000 in compensation, including in respect of 26 weeks’ loss of pay.