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On maternity leave, just been informed my working practices are being investigated for gross misconduct.

(50 Posts)
Langoria Sun 21-Oct-12 16:43:30

I'm 5 months into maternity leave and having chased my employer a number if times by email since august, we finally arranged for me to work a keeping in touch day on Monday 22nd October.

On Friday I recieved an email asking me to confirm my attendance tomorrow and advising me that rather than a day catching up with my colleagues and projects, instead I am to attend a meeting as I am being investigated for gross misconduct!

Here's what it said:

Secondly, I wish to talk with you concerning the Companies investigation into your working practises prior to maternity leave. I must point out that subject to the outcome of this investigation, it may be necessary for it to progress to a disciplinary hearing in relation to an act of gross misconduct that may result in your dismissal from the Company.
This may come as a shock but I wish to explain matters that are of much concern and look forward to an honest discussion in order that an informed decision can be made.

Needless to say this has come as a massive shock and I have been racking my brains all weekend to think what it could be about. I have contacted a colleague who is covering my post while I am on maternity leave and he claims to be none the wiser.

This has all come out of the blue, as I was in the office visiting my colleagues on 1st October, and the last communication I had with my boss prior to this email was on 5th October and nothing was mentioned then. I'm wondering if it has something to do with me questioning their calculation of my smp as they miscalculated my 90% (failing to make the calculation from the qualifying period meaning they neglected to include my annual bonus, and thus they owe me a lot more money which I am due to receive in this months pay on 25th Oct)

My understanding is that gross misconduct is very serious indeed, and I am certain that I would know if I had committed such an offence. But I guess I will find out tomorrow what it's all about.

It would be helpful if anyone can give advice on how to handle this meeting.

Also, if I am found guilty and dismissed, am I right in thinking they must continue to pay my smp? Will they also have to pay me for holiday accrued to date?

If I opted to resign (wasn't planning on going back anyway) do they still have pay smp/holiday accrual?

Presumably if they dismiss me now they have the right to demand my company car back etc?

Thanks in anticipation

tribpot Sun 21-Oct-12 16:53:47

God. Well, I can't help on the specifics but others will be along who can.

However, I would advise you to reschedule the meeting tomorrow whilst you establish what your company's disciplinary policy and processes are and particularly whether you can have a friend or union member attend the meeting with you. You may wish to take advice from an employment lawyer to see what the most appropriate 'first move' is in such circumstances.

They cannot possibly expect you to go in and just have this all out with no warning or explanation. If you do go tomorrow, I would take scrupulous notes and state that you are not in a position to discuss the charges, having only been made aware of them the previous working day.

AlphaBeta82 Sun 21-Oct-12 17:05:46

I thought in gross misconduct they had to outline the accusations in writing. As above I would postpone the meeting and read up on the policy and your employment rights. They are treading a very fine line by the sounds of it, my understanding is if they do not follow the law to the ultimate letter they are in breach of employment law and you would automatically win in a tribunaL.
How awful for you!

AlphaBeta82 Sun 21-Oct-12 17:05:49

I thought in gross misconduct they had to outline the accusations in writing. As above I would postpone the meeting and read up on the policy and your employment rights. They are treading a very fine line by the sounds of it, my understanding is if they do not follow the law to the ultimate letter they are in breach of employment law and you would automatically win in a tribunaL.
How awful for you!

DameEnidsOrange Sun 21-Oct-12 17:09:25

I'm no expert but I thought the same as AlphaBeta re having something in writing.

Keep bumping this as there are a couple of HR experts on here who are immensely helpful and generous with their support and advice.

prh47bridge Sun 21-Oct-12 18:40:15

From your letter they are not expecting to have a disciplinary meeting tomorrow. They are just suggesting that may be the outcome of their investigation. If they were intending to have a disciplinary meeting they would have to tell you enough about the allegations to allow you to prepare your defence. They should also provide you with copies of any written evidence and advise you of your right to be accompanied.

Given what they have said, I think the most they can do tomorrow is an investigative meeting. They do not have to notify you of the allegations in advance of this meeting, but there are still questions about the way in which they are approaching this. Disciplinary matters should be investigated without unreasonable delay. As you are 5 months into maternity leave it is not obvious they have done this, unless, of course, they have only just turned up evidence of something. You should have been given advance warning and time to prepare. I don't think notifying you on Friday about a meeting on Monday meets that requirement. The investigatory meeting cannot in itself lead to disciplinary action - there must be a separate disciplinary meeting.

Personally I would listen to what they have to say tomorrow but I would be very careful about answering questions and I certainly wouldn't volunteer any information. If it was me I would probably deny any wrongdoing but refuse to answer any questions until I understood the allegations and had been allowed to check my records.

JasperStreet Sun 21-Oct-12 18:44:58

Good luck tomorrow. Surely it's not possible to commit gross misconduct without noticing!

FrameyMcFrame Sun 21-Oct-12 18:57:29

Let us know what transpires tomorrow.

Do you have a union? If so get in touch with them ASAP.

I remember something really similar to this happening to someone on MN before, also on maternity leave. Could it be to avoid paying you your full entitlement to Maternity?

Langoria Sun 21-Oct-12 19:17:00

Thanks for your responses.

I was thinking it must be something that has only just come to light otherwise you'd think they would have raised any issues before now. I have worked there for 6 years and never had any problems or concerns.

I can't think of anything I might have knowingly done that could be classed as gross misconduct as one would think that is quite specific.

I have read through my company handbook so I am up to date with the policy on disciplinary procedures and what they class as being activities of gross misconduct.

I don't really get what they stand to gain as according to what I have read today, I'm pretty certain that they would have to continue to pay my smp regardless of either their dismissing me?!

However I would have to surrender my company car.

It will be interesting to find out tomorrow anyway. Maybe, just maybe it is all a big understanding.

Just to add, they are a 30 ye old company, with 100+ staff and a £20million turnover. No HR manager though. A Director in charge of personnel and an external HR consultancy whose existence I only discovered when I initially tried to negotiate a contractual maternity package (which by the way was denied).

xkcdfangirl Sun 21-Oct-12 19:17:51

I agree with prh47bridge - you need to keep your mouth shut except for repeating as many times as is necessary "I don't believe I have done anything wrong, but it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment until I have understood what allegations are being made against me and have had an opportunity to check my own records". Do not be led from that into discussing what records (if any) you might be referring to or allow them to browbeat you into making any further statement that that (EVEN IF they claim the allegation is simple and requires a simple yes or no answer, you need proper advice to understand the ramifications of any such accusation so should not give any such answer at this stage). You cannot be expected to participate in even an investigation meeting like this when you are half way through mat leave. I know that by the time I went to a KIT day I could barey remember how to do my job I was so muzzy-headed from sleep deprivation, there is no way I would have been capable of making reliable statements about any action I did or did not take before the mat leave started.

They are being thoroughly unreasonable.

As to your other questions - if your employers are just giving you the standard minimum then you will definitely keep all your smp whatever happens. If they are giving you more than they have to you may have to give back the excess over the minimum, it will depend on how your standard T&Cs of employment are worded. I don't know about the company car question.

Unless you are wanting a complete career change when/if you go back to work, be aware that when asking for references, lots of employers will specifically ask your referees for the reason for leaving and whether there were any disciplinary procedures pending at the time you left, so even thoug you weren't planning on going back anyway it might be worth fighting this. You needs some proper professional advice though.

wishingchair Mon 22-Oct-12 14:06:51

I wuold attend the meeting tomorrow. Don't say anything other than what xkcdfangirl suggests, and take lots of notes. Explain that you can't be expected to come from the midst of your mat leave to a meeting for which you've not been allowed to prepare and you have no understanding of what it is about so you will listen, but request a subsequent meeting to be scheduled for a discussion.

You will be able to take a friend/colleague ... maybe not a bad idea given the time you've been out. Gross misconduct is serious and so they need to be very careful they are following the correct procedure.

Make sure you check out the terms of your home insurances. They often include legal cover, which can be used for all sorts of things. A friend used hers to successfully fight a redundancy whilst on maternity leave. Hopefully it won't come to that though. Good luck x

msrisotto Mon 22-Oct-12 17:45:45

Well that's a nasty surprise but as you said, if there was really substantial grounds for this, you'd definitely know about it! Are you a member of a union? Even if you're not you can still join and use their services immediately.

netbook Mon 22-Oct-12 18:58:30

Any news OP?

tribpot Mon 22-Oct-12 19:01:34

Fingers crossed it went well.

showtunesgirl Mon 22-Oct-12 19:05:22

Thinking of you OP.

Northernlurkerisbehindyouboo Mon 22-Oct-12 19:07:37

'Just to add, they are a 30 ye old company, with 100+ staff and a £20million turnover. No HR manager though. A Director in charge of personnel and an external HR consultancy whose existence I only discovered when I initially tried to negotiate a contractual maternity package (which by the way was denied). '

I think this is the key info tbh. I suspect they want rid of you.

How did it go today?

PoppadomPreach Mon 22-Oct-12 19:08:27

Get a lawyer if you can. Companies have to apply a VERY strict procedure in matters like this. If they have not followed the exact letter of the law, you will have a strong case for "unfair dismissal" (I.e. regardless of whether you have done something wrong, they did not do things properly). Given they have no HR team, there is a good chance they will fuck up somewhere along the line.

It does sounds massively unfair though - member THEy have to prove your guilt, you do not have to prove your innocence. The advice given above re saying as little as possible is good. But definitely try to get a lawyer. Or at least have a chat with one.

Good luck.

saintlyjimjams Mon 22-Oct-12 19:11:08

God there seem to be loads of these sorts of cases on MN at the moment. Is this the result of the recession?

Hope it went well today. brew

NatashaBee Mon 22-Oct-12 19:14:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FrameyMcFrame Tue 23-Oct-12 22:23:26

Any news op, what was it all about?

HermioneE Tue 23-Oct-12 22:28:31

Hope it went well OP.

Leedscatgirl Tue 23-Oct-12 22:32:08

Bump hope it went well?

NormaStanleyFletcher Tue 23-Oct-12 22:34:37

How did it go?

ReallyTired Tue 23-Oct-12 22:39:24

I'm sorry to hear you are going through this. Prehaps they are just trying to get rid of you.

Unfair dismissal during maternity leave would mean that you would have grounds to sue for a massive amount of money at an employment tribunal. I think it sounds like you need good legal advice.

hermioneweasley Wed 24-Oct-12 13:58:48

Hi Langoria. Just seen this thread and happy to help if you can let us have an update.

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