Chef wins unfair dismissal claim

14 March, 2017
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

A former head chef of Number 1 Bar in London Bridge has been awarded £36,581 by the Employment Tribunal, after it found that he had been unfairly dismissed for whistleblowing.Knife

Marcelo Lagos was dismissed in May 2015
when his employers told him that the kitchen was closing. However the kitchen did not close and the Employment Tribunal found that he was actually dismissed because he had raised health and safety concerns about kitchen equipment, after he burned his hand at work.  The Tribunal found that his disclosure was clearly in the public interest ‘because anyone who came into that kitchen was likely to be endangered by faulty equipment’.

The Tribunal also found that Marcelo had been discriminated against because of race and that Number 1 Bar hadn’t paid him the correct holiday or notice pay.

It is a legal requirement that all employees are given a written statement of certain terms of their engagement within 2 months of joining. Number 1 Bar had failed to provide one to Marcelo.  

This case serves as a reminder to all employers of some of their key duties.

Health & Safety

All employers owe duties to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their staff and may be prosecuted for failures of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

To comply with your obligations you should:

  • Have a written health and safety policy if you employ 5 or more people;
  • Regularly review your policy in consultation with staff; and
  • Assess workplace hazards and ensure you have controls in place to minimise risks.

The Health and Safety Executive provides specific guidance for employers working in food and drink manufacturing, catering and hospitality and retail industries: https://www.hse.gov.uk/guidance/industries.htm#f

Whistleblowing

Be aware that if an employee discloses information about a criminal offence, breach of a legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice, danger to health and safety, damage to the environment or the deliberate concealment of any of these, and they do so because they believe that the disclosure is in the public interest, then they are likely to be protected by whistleblowing legislation.

Those working within the food industry may ‘blow the whistle’ by making a disclosure to the Food Standards Agency.  It has published some guidance here.

Employers should create an open environment where staff feel able to speak up. It is also advisable to have a formal whistleblowing policy in place.

S1 statements

You must make sure that you provide new employees with a statement of employment particulars within 2 months of starting with you.  Among other things, the particulars should include the date on which the employee’s continuous employment began, terms and conditions in relation to hours of work, holiday and sickness, and applicable notice periods.

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