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Lorry driver's unfair dismissal claims rejected

Lorry driver's unfair dismissal claims rejected

Thursday 29 October 2020

Lorry driver's unfair dismissal claims rejected

A lorry driver who got his vehicle stuck alongside scaffolding in Le Pollet was cautioned by police and dismissed by his employer because his driving licence had expired months before the incident.

Timothy Leadbeater appealed to the Employment & Discrimination Tribunal that his sacking for 'gross misconduct' was unfair, however his claims were rejected.

Mr Leadbeater was employed by Channel Islands Lines - which was put into liquidation earlier this year - as a lorry driver, between October 2017 and February 2020.

On 16 January, he was told to make a delivery in Town, however his lorry caught the fitting on some scaffolding in the Lower Pollet and got stuck. 

No injuries were caused and no properties were damaged, however it led to a "temporary gridlock" for other delivery drivers and the police were called to investigate the incident. 

Paul Davis freight

Pictured: Mr Leadbeater worked for Paul Davis Freight, which was part of the Channel Islands Lines group.

A week later, Mr Leadbeater received a phone call from Guernsey Police asking him to produce his commercial driving licence and insurance. However he could not find it and sent off an application to the DVLD for a duplicate licence, on the grounds that he believed his current one was still valid until February 2020. 

The DVLD got back to him saying his license had actually expired "in autumn 2019" and had to be renewed, which Mr Leadbeater described as a complete oversight on his part. 

This led to a police investigation, which was initiated alongside disciplinary proceedings at work. Mr Leadbeater attended a hearing on 12 February.

The firm told Mr Leadbeater he had brought them into disrepute by not having a valid driving license, rendering him "unable to complete the role you are employed to carry out."

"You also stated that you understood the implications of this and that you have driven both your own personal vehicle and the company truck in the time you have not had a valid licence. You also failed to make us aware there was any issue with renewing your licence, which forms part of our drivers policies and handbook.”

Police Station Law Enforcement

Pictured: The police investigation into Mr Leadbeater's licence resulted in the lorry driver receiving a caution. 

Mr Leadbeater said he had felt under pressure to continue with the hearing, despite being signed off work with stress, as he was given the impression the outcome would be the same whether the hearing happened that day or was postponed to a later date. 

Mr Leadbeater, who had a clean disciplinary record up until that time, was dismissed and given the right to appeal in writing within seven days, which he rejected "because the appeal had to be made to the same person who took the decision to dismiss him" and he "had no trust and confidence that an appeal would be determined fairly".

The police investigation resulted in a formal caution for Mr Leadbeater, however they decided that no further action was needed.

Shortly after, at the beginning of April, Channel Islands Lines was placed into liquidation with 12 more Guernsey-based staff with Paul Davis Freight losing their jobs. 

Neither party attended the official tribunal hearing; Mr Leadbeater called up sick on the morning, while Channel Islands' Lines' liquidators decided not to attend. Some of the crucial documents that would have helped the investigation were missing, much to Tribunal Chair Paula Brierley's frustration. 

Andy Jehan

Pictured: Paul Davis Freight CEO Andy Jehan wrote to Mr Leadbeater following the disciplinary hearing confirming his dismissal for gross misconduct and his right to appeal within seven days. 

"It is disappointing that the Tribunal were unable to have sight of the dismissal letter or the notes of the disciplinary hearing held on 12 February 2020," said Mrs Brierley.

"The Tribunal does not accept the applicant’s argument that the reason for dismissal was not a reason relating to his conduct but one relating to his capability or qualification for performing work of the kind which he was employed to do.

"It is noted that the applicant that it was a careless omission, albeit one without intent. Carelessness and neglect are conduct, the result of his careless conduct leading to the omission of renewing his licence lead to him to not having a licence, which was not only in breach of his contract of employment because he did not have the qualification to do the job he was employed to do, but also resulted in the company’s insurance cover being invalid putting the company at risk."

Mrs Brierley cited the company's Statement of Main Terms and Employment, which had been signed by both parties. It set out the requirement have a valid driving licence: “loss of your driving licence may result in the termination of your employment and depending on the circumstances, may include summary dismissal.”

The Tribunal concluded: "The Tribunal considers it reasonable that the expected standard for a professional lorry driver would be that they ensure that their driving licence is valid, therefore in this situation disciplinary procedure is the appropriate procedure to follow because not having a valid driving licence is in breach of the Statement of Main Terms of Employment and falls into the examples of listed for Gross Misconduct."

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