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Unfair dismissal for Tesco worker ‘left in the dark’ about her new role

An employment tribunal has ruled that after being left in the dark about changes to her new role, a former Tesco employee was unfairly dismissed.

Ms Escott, stock manager at Tesco’s Caerphilly branch was informed that there were to be some ‘minor’ changes to her role which would be renamed as ‘Stock and Admin Manager.’

When she was informed of the changes on January 22nd, 2018, Ms Escott expressed her concerns because the changes did not feel minor to her. She asked to have clarification on the changes and how they were considered minor before accepting the position.

Although the company had issued a pack explaining to the affected staff about the new position a pack was not available for Ms Escott at the meeting. She was later shown a copy of the pack but was refused permission to take it away to read until several days later.

A second meeting was held on January 23rd and Ms Escott was asked again if she wanted to accept the position. Again, she raised her concern about the position. She wanted to know the difference between the major and minor changes in the role. Unfortunately, neither the store manager nor another colleague could answer hr question.

At the second meeting Ms Escott was given a pack with information about the new role. She concluded that 93% of the old role responsibilities had been included in the new position, along with increased management duties and responsibilities. Ms Escott did not consider these as minor changes.

Ms Escott was admitted to hospital on January 31st with anxiety related symptoms brought on by the proposed changed to her position. On returning to work a few weeks later her store manager was still unable to answer her questions, although he asked her again if she was going to accept the position of Stock and Admin Manager.

Presented with four options namely to accept the role, step down, look for another vacancy in Tesco or resign Ms Escott stated that she felt she was being pressurised into accepting the position. Her manager Mr Jeffrey was still unable to tell her the difference between the two roles.

A third meeting was held on March 7th where her questions were still unanswered. At this point Ms Escott sent a formal grievance about the process to Tesco Chief Executive informing him of her concerns.

A final meeting was held on March 22nd and Mr Jeffrey asked again if she would accept the position. Ms Escott declined to accept and was then suspended immediately while an investigation was carried out because she failed to comply with a reasonable management request.

Cardiff employment tribunal ruled that the suspension was carried out in an insensitive manner. It did not comply with company policy and Ms Escott raised another grievance about that.

An internal investigation was started on June 5th. It was found that if her questions had ben answered Ms Escott would have been able to make an informed decision about the new role. At this point her suspension should have been lifted. It was not.

Her third grievance about the definition of minor and major changes found that it was unclear why the changes were minor, with the managers having no authority to change this assessment because it was a ‘business decision.’ At this point Ms Escott resigned.

Judge Rhian Brace stated that although Tesco had met the requirements giving staff a minimum of four weeks before any change came into effect, Ms Escott never had a full picture of what her new role would be, and neither were her concerns addressed.

Judge Brace found that no-one at local management level had addressed these concerns and this caused a slow erosion on the claimant’s trust and confidence in her managers.

Ms Escott had simply wanted answers to her questions before accepting her new position.

Judge Brace concluded by saying that it was difficult to believe that considering the employee had been working for the company for 28 years she was suspended for an inappropriate reason.

The claim for constructive unfair dismissal was upheld by the tribunal and compensation will be discussed at a later hearing.

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