Homebase worker who was sacked after accusing the hardware store chain of HYPNOTISING its staff loses unfair dismissal claim
A Homebase worker who accused the firm of hypnotising its workers and was later sacked for refusing to work from a different store has lost his claim for unfair dismissal.
Peter Smallman accused Homebase management of secretly using ‘hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming’ and even reported this to the Health and Safety Executive and the local council.
He worked as a team member at the store in Folkestone, Kent, for less than three years until bosses tried to transfer him to another store following several complaints about his behaviour from other colleagues.
But when he refused to work at a different store he was sacked, leading Mr Smallman to claim he was unfairly dismissed.
He believed he was fired due to the previous allegations he had made about his managers and the CEO, but an employment tribunal ruled Homebase was well within its rights to sack him.
An employment tribunal heard Peter Smallman worked as a team member at the store in Folkestone, Kent (pictured), for less than three years until bosses tried to transfer him to another store following several complaints about his behaviour from other colleagues. When he refused, he was sacked, leading Mr Smallman to claim he was unfairly dismissed
The tribunal heard the working relationship Mr Smallman had with local management and other staff at the Folkestone store had ‘fundamentally broken down’ due to his complaints.
The judge – employment judge Martin – said: ‘[Mr Smallman] had made numerous very serious allegations against local management and the CEO.
‘He alleged that [Homebase] was involved in hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming which would have a profound effect on staff both at home and at work. He gave no basis for his belief.
‘He reported this to the Health and Safety Executive and the local council. They took no action.
‘He suggested that a local manager… adjusted taps in the toilets (so that very little water came out) to be nasty to employees despite them sharing these facilities with the public.
‘During an investigation into his grievances, it was reported by a colleague that [Mr Smallman] had told him he wanted his local manager to die a slow and painful death.’
A disciplinary investigation began, but Homebase decided to drop this course of action and instead transfer Mr Smallman to the store in Broadstairs, Kent, about 25 miles away.
Bosses told him in a letter this was because they were ‘highly concerned that trying to unpick all of this and restore relations to a professional level whereby all parties can work together is simply not achievable’.
Homebase offered to change Mr Smallman’s rota from working for 20 hours per week over four days to working 20 hours per week working over three days after Mr Smallman raised ‘concerns about the added travel time and travel expenses’ when working from an alternative store.
The tribunal heard Homebase also agreed to cover his additional travel expenses and to reduce his working day by 30 minutes for a period of six months.
The tribunal judge said: ‘It was a reasonable response for [Homebase] to abandon the disciplinary process and to move [Mr Smallman] to another place of work. This was… a pragmatic way of resolving the issues.’
Homebase dropped a disciplinary investigation into Mr Smallman’s conduct and instead transferred him to work at the Broadstairs store (pictured) 25 miles away. However, instead of going to his new place of work in May 2019 as instructed, he refused and went to Folkestone instead where he was asked to leave the premises, a tribunal heard, and he was suspended
However, instead of going to his new place of work in Broadstairs on May 14 2019 as instructed, Mr Smallman refused and went to Folkestone instead.
The tribunal heard he had to be asked to leave the premises and this resulted in him being suspended.
He was then sacked by David Wells, who was Area Manager and Regional Manager for the Southeast region and is now Divisional Loss Manager, for failing to follow the ‘reasonable instruction’ of working at the Broadstairs store.
The judge ruled the dismissal was not unfair as alleged by Mr Smallman, concluding: ‘In all the circumstances I find the decision to dismiss fair.
‘Failure to follow a reasonable instruction is defined as both an act of misconduct and an act of gross misconduct in [Homebase’s] disciplinary procedure.
‘I am satisfied that the reason for the instruction was the breakdown in relation at the Folkestone store and that [Homebase] adopted a reasonable process to resolve the issues.’
A further claim of unpaid wages was also dismissed by the judge.
Mr Smallman claimed there was a ‘verbal agreement’ to increase his contractual hours from 20 per week to 39 per week, but he could not specifically say who made this agreement with him, the tribunal heard.
Homebase said it asked staff to work 38 hours per week for a period of about five months to help with the opening of a new store, but said there was no written confirmation that the changes were contractual.
The tribunal heard Mr Smallman continued working for Homebase ‘for a substantial period of time once the increase in hours was stopped’.