Worker unfairly dismissed being accused of providing false information during investigation

A warehouse worker, by the name of George Hope, injured his ankle after he stepped off a pallet he was standing on whilst working for United Biscuits. He initially claimed he had tried to step over the pallet, but he later amended his statement, which led to the employer accusing him of providing false information to hide the fact he had carried out an unsafe act in the workplace. 


While stepping off a pallet in a warehouse, Hope fractured his ankle and had to attend hospital. This confirmed that Hope had sustained a double fracture to his ankle and would be unable to attend work due to these injuries. 


United Biscuits proceeded to carry out an investigation into this incident, obtaining statements from the other employees. CCTV footage of the accident was also reviewed, which showed Hope laying a sheet on a pallet, moving the pallet with his feet, then climbing onto a pallet which was upturned, stretching up to reach a radio and falling or slipping off the pallet. A phone interview was also held with Hope, who was absent from work as a result of the incident.


During this interview, Hope said he could not remember how the accident happened and confirmed during the call that he was on strong painkillers. However, during a second call, 

 Hope was informed that employee statements taken at the time suggested he had hurt his ankle by putting a pallet down and tripping over it – but Hope did not think this was the case. 


After Hope reviewed the CCTV footage, it became clear to him that it was the force of him falling down from the pallet after adjusting the radio. He was asked by his superior whether he would like to change his statement, but he said there was nothing to change. 


Once these turn of events had been carried out, Garner informed Hope that he was suspended from work because he “knowingly provided the business with a false statement” during the health and safety investigation. He was informed that providing false information during an investigation was considered gross misconduct. Despite appealing this dismissal, he was unsuccessful and brought claims of unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal to the Glasgow tribunal. 


Based on the evidence provided, the tribunal ordered United Biscuits to pay Hope a sum of £7,844.87 for loss of wages. This was based on the fact that the organisation has focused primarily on Hope’s initial statement, rather than what was said in the future. 

Hope was in a significant amount of pain when he made his first statement, which affected its accuracy and explained why it did not correlate with other evidence. 


What can employers learn from this case?

When it comes to a reasonable and fair dismissal, the evidence gathered throughout these proceedings can be crucial and it is essential that employers take all evidence available to them into account. When assessing a potential situation of gross misconduct, they need to be completely sure that this is the correct decision and ensure the evidence is completely accurate. 


If you would like some advice on an unfair dismissal case, please feel free to visit the Nationwide Employment Lawyers website. You are more than welcome to telephone us on 020 8263 6080 or complete the contact form on our website.