Mistakes Lead to Fair Dismissals

Some of you may have heard about a recent Man Utd game that was called off due to a bomb scare. It was later revealed that the ‘bomb’ was a dummy that had accidently been left there after a security exercise.

The cost of re-organizing game is estimated to be £3m and the incident caused national embarrassment for the security firm, Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd, and their client, Manchester United.

This incident raises the employment law question: Can a simple mistake be a dismissible offence if it results in a serious incident? Usually in incidents involving repeated mistakes it would be a performance scenario involving final warnings etc.

However if the mistake results in 75,000 people being evacuated from a stadium, national ridicule and large expense to a key client then maybe poor performance isn’t quite the correct term. Case law suggests that serious mistakes that jeopardizes health and safety can result in fair dismissals. For example, not following correct safety procedures or wearing correct safety equipment.

In this circumstance it could be said that a failure to catalogue fake bombs could have put health and safety of employees or the public at risk but if not an employer can still dismiss an employee if they believe gross incompetence could put the health and safety of others at risk if the person remained employed.

Mitigating factors in such a decision should include; experience, the safety procedure (and how well it is usually followed), level of supervision and impact of the mistake. If the mistake is so serious that the employer feels they have no choice but to dismiss this should only be done after a proper investigation and disciplinary meeting etc.