Factory worker sacked for taking day off to take his pregnant partner for emergency scan wins £8,000


Factory worker who was sacked for taking a day off to take his pregnant partner for an emergency scan wins more than £8,000 for unfair dismissal

  • Craig Jewell took a day off to go with his pregnant partner to an appointment
  • The Wigan factory worker was told by his boss ‘Can you f*** have Monday off’
  • He was later fired just two days after he tried to book off paternity leave
  • Mr Jewell was awarded £8,000 after a judge said he was unfairly dismissed

A factory worker who was sacked for taking a day off to accompany his pregnant partner for an emergency scan at hospital has won more than £8,000.

Craig Jewell tried to book off annual leave for the appointment but was told ‘Can you f*** have Monday off’ by line manager Garren Lowndes.

Mr Jewell then tried to take it as ‘dependant leave’ as it was an urgent situation, when the booking system didn’t work he ended up calling Mr Lowndes and told him directly.

When he returned to work on Tuesday he was hauled before a disciplinary meeting for his ‘insubordination’, an employment tribunal heard.

While managing director Damian Hunt intervened to prevent Mr Lowndes from sacking Mr Jewell on this occasion, he later dismissed him two days after Mr Jewell tried to book paternity leave.

An employment tribunal ruled the real reason for the sacking was Mr Jewell taking time off to care for the six-year-old child and his partner, when bosses argued it was for misconduct.

Mr Jewell was awarded £8,352.12 in compensation after winning a case of unfair dismissal.

Craig Jewell won £8,000 after being fired by his employer Stax Converting Limited for taking a day off to accompany his pregnant partner for a scan at hospital. When he did his employer said 'Can you f*** have Monday off' (Stock image)

Craig Jewell won £8,000 after being fired by his employer Stax Converting Limited for taking a day off to accompany his pregnant partner for a scan at hospital. When he did his employer said ‘Can you f*** have Monday off’ (Stock image)

The tribunal, held in Manchester, Lancashire, heard Mr Jewell worked for Wigan-based packaging firm Stax Converting Limited as a machine operator on the factory floor from February 2018 until April 2019.

In October 2018 his partner had some health issues with her pregnancy and Mr Jewell found out her next pre-booked appointment, which Mr Jewell had booked off, would be brought forward by two days for and emergency appointment.

Employment Judge Jane Aspinall said: ‘This presented a child care problem as his partner ordinarily took the six year old child of the family to school. He also wanted to be able to support his partner at the appointment. This was their baby and an emergency scan.’

The tribunal heard he made a request on a Friday, the day he found out about the appointment being moved, through an online system to take holiday on the Monday.

Later that day he approached his line manager Mr Lowndes but he refused the leave and swore at Mr Jewell, saying ‘Can you f*** have Monday off’ because he had not given one week’s notice.

Mr Jewell told him it was for an emergency scan and asked if he could swap his pre-booked holiday but this was again refused.

The tribunal heard he tried several more times to book dependant leave, which did not require a week’s notice, instead of annual leave on the online system but he could not find the option for this.

He cancelled his holiday requests and instead sent another request, this time for unpaid leave, writing in the subject line: ‘Won’t be in for childcare reasons. Will take unpaid day for childcare.’ He got no response to this request.

Garren Lowndes from Stax Converting Limited (road pictured), based in Wigan, described Mr Jewell's  absence as 'unauthorised' and 'insubordination'

Garren Lowndes from Stax Converting Limited (road pictured), based in Wigan, described Mr Jewell’s  absence as ‘unauthorised’ and ‘insubordination’

On the Monday morning he called Mr Lowndes and said he would not be coming in as he had to ‘make arrangements to get a six-year-old child to school and to support his partner in an emergency hospital appointment’ that day.

When he returned to work he was invited to a disciplinary hearing for ‘Failure to follow procedure with regards to holiday request’, ‘Unauthorised absence’ and ‘Insubordination’.

About two weeks later he was told disciplinary action would not be pursued and ‘we can put this down to a lack of clarity on both sides and a misunderstanding between us’.

The tribunal heard Mr Jewell had several further holiday dates which he used to attend hospital appointments with his partner.

The hearing was told in the following months he was spoken to by bosses about using his mobile phone and smoking on the factory floor in the same way as other workers were.

But these conversations did not constitute a formal verbal warning, the tribunal heard.

In March 2019, Mr Jewell applied for paternity leave for the following May and June. The next day, Mr Lowndes started writing a letter dismissing him.

The letter accused him of ‘not following company rules in relation to holiday procedures where you did not give sufficient notice and when refused the time off did not attend work’.

It also mentioned warnings about using his phone and smoking on the factory floor, and added: ‘This type of attitude is not acceptable because employees are expected to follow company rules and procedures at all times to ensure a healthy and safe working environment for everybody.’

The tribunal heard Mr Jewell appealed and Mr Lowndes supplied a statement for this which read: ‘In October 2018 there was an incident involving Craig whereby he did not follow company procedure resulting in unauthorised absence and insubordination.

‘He has still continued to insist that he can take time away from work against company procedures. This has resulted in a lack of trust on my part that he will reliably attend work.’

The appeal was dismissed and Mr Jewell brought his claim of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal.

Upholding his case, Judge Aspinall said: ‘The principal reason for the dismissal was the time he took off on Monday 8 October 2018 for dependant’s leave. This… makes his dismissal automatically unfair.

‘Mr Lowndes had not liked the fact that he had started disciplinary proceedings against the claimant in October 2018 and they had been halted by Mr Hunt.

‘I draw an inference from the timing of the dismissal… within 48 hours of [Mr Jewell’s] request for time off for an ante natal appointment and the booking of his paternity leave.

‘I infer that allowing [Mr Jewell] his statutory rights to time off was a problem for Mr Lowndes.

‘If the reason for dismissal had been misconduct then Mr Lowndes could have taken time to investigate and to comply with the disciplinary procedure by giving a verbal warning, then a first written warning, then a final written warning before moving to dismissal.’

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