An 83 year old man, once lauded as B&Q’s oldest employee, has won his case for unfair dismissal after he was sacked for leaving his till open for three and a half minutes.
Ivor Smith was working on the till when, after buying a 50p sponge, a customer asked him to change £200 in twenty pound notes into £10 notes. As Mr Smith was helping him, the customer then told Mr Smith that he wanted the £200 in £1 coins.
The transaction was recorded on the store’s CCTV.
The shop manager, Mr Wilson, said the CCTV showed the customer putting his hand in the till on two occasions during this transaction and that the till was subsequently £700 short. Mr Smith was subsequently sacked for gross misconduct.
Giving evidence, Mr Wilson is reported to have said “My view was that this was a serious breach of security. A tender transaction should not take that long. He gave customers access to the till!” He also felt that Mr Smith did not believe he had done anything wrong and that “if the same situation occurred it would happen again”.
Despite this (and although it did find that Mr Smith’s conduct had contributed to his dismissal) the Tribunal found that Mr Smith had been unfairly dismissed. Given how serious Mr Wilson was saying this conduct was, the Tribunal focused on the fact that there were no written rules about till procedures and it found that Mr Smith “had no clear notice that such conduct on his part would be regarded by his employers as gross misconduct leading to his dismissal”.
This may be seen as a somewhat harsh decision. However, the Tribunal may well have sympathised with Mr Smith given that it was not clear whether the customer had actually taken the money from the till and Mr Wilson said that it had taken him only 15 minutes to decide to dismiss. However, the clear message here is that, even if may seem obvious that certain conduct is serious enough to lead to dismissal, this must be made clear to employees (such as, for example, in company rules, policies and procedures).