Dismissal of Baker for not washing hands was fair

Posted on: September 16th, 2016

In the case of Donovan v Greggs plc, an Employment Tribunal held that an experienced employee (a baker) should have appreciated the seriousness of breaching his employer’s hygiene rules (by not washing his hands) and it was appropriate for the employer to dismiss him.

The employer Greggs dismissed Mr Donovan, a bakery worker with 11 years’ service in the job, after a breach of hygiene rules.

Mr Donovan admitted not washing his hands before entering the food production area.

Greggs took the decision because of its zero-tolerance approach to breaches of its hygiene rules.

In Mr Donovan’s claim for unfair dismissal, he acknowledged that he had failed to wash his hands in breach of his employer’s policies.

However, he argued that the dismissal was outside the band of reasonable responses and was, in the circumstances, too harsh.

The Tribunal concluded that the employer’s decision to dismiss fell within the range of reasonable responses.

The Tribunal accepted that the principal reason for dismissal was that Mr Donovan could not now be trusted to follow hand-washing rules and so he posed an unacceptable risk to the health of the company’s customers and to it’s reputation.

In rejecting the unfair dismissal case, the Tribunal considered that length of service can be a mitigating factor when deciding on the appropriate sanction. However, it went on to describe Mr Donovan’s length of service, together with his experience in the food industry of over 25 years, as a “double-edged sword”. The Tribunal said that Greggs was entitled to have expected better from such an experienced worker.