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The Last Manager told me to Do it that way

An employee is accused of procedural misconduct which could justify their dismissal. In their defence, they’ve claimed that a manager who has since left told them to “do things this way”. Does this get them off the hook?

Cash handling – Disciplinary offence

One Employer recently discovered that one of their employees has been routinely breaching their procedures in relation to cash handling. As the offence is deemed to be gross misconduct, the Employer would ordinarily contemplate a dismissal. However, by way of defence, the employee has stated that a former manager told them to do things this way and they, in turn, followed that management instruction.

No more manager

The trouble is that the manager has since left our subscriber’s employment, meaning they can’t quickly and easily put the matter beyond doubt. So, their question is: “Does this detail automatically get the employee off the hook?”. The short answer is “no”. This is because there is one of two things going on here, either the employee: (1) is telling the truth (but that still won’t necessarily justify their actions); or (2) has used, or is trying to use, the manager’s departure to their advantage.

Don’t take their word for it

Our initial advice is that our subscriber shouldn’t automatically accept the employee’s version of events. If they are able to contact the former manager, there’s nothing to stop them trying to obtain a witness statement from that individual (see The next step ). It goes without saying that the former manager is under no obligation to assist our subscriber and they may be reluctant to do so if their own employment ended on bad terms. Nevertheless, there’s no harm in trying.

Uncontactable witness

If the former manager confirms the employee’s versions of events, our subscriber will need to take that into account. On the other hand, if they are uncontactable, or unwilling to provide their assistance, our subscriber should widen their investigation. For example, they could ask other employees if they were under similar instructions or ever told not to follow procedural rules by that manager. If so, that will add weight to the employee’s defence.

It remains unclear

It’s quite possible that, in matters such as this, our subscriber will be unable to establish if the employee is telling the truth or not.

  • Tip 1. If things aren’t clear-cut, it will be dangerous to move to a dismissal – but that doesn’t mean another disciplinary sanction can’t be imposed.
  • Tip 2. Where there’s any doubt whatsoever, the best bet is to issue a written warning (which can be a final one). In addition, they should ensure that there is a clear cash handling policy in place and that the employee and all other relevant staff are fully trained in it.
  • Tip 3. Should it be blatantly obvious that the employee has lied, or they did something that they knew would be wrong in any event, dismissal can be justified, but there must be clear and robust evidence which backs up that decision.
Although this rather convenient claim may be true, it’s not a “get out of jail free card” for the employee. When faced with this type of defence, enquiries should be made of the former manager (if possible) and/or other staff. If there’s any doubt over the facts, don’t dismiss – issue a final written warning instead.

Call Adrian at Berkeley Solicitors for further details or advice 0161-371 0011

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