The Great Jaffa Cake Robbery of 2021: a simple oversight or an act of gross misconduct?

Tom Swann

Trainee Solicitor

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October 18, 2021

Categories Employment Law

The Great Jaffa Cake Robbery of 2021: a simple oversight or an act of gross misconduct?

A police constable from West Yorkshire Police has been sacked after failing to pay full price for two packets of Jaffa Cakes at a charity stall at his place of work. The packets of cakes were priced at 50p each, however PC Chris Dwyer failed to cough up enough dough, paying just 10p in total for both.

There were no crumbs of comfort for PC Dwyer at his disciplinary hearing, where he was found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed with immediate effect.

Misconduct and dismissal

Gross misconduct is of course a potentially fair reason for dismissing an employee. An employer must have a genuine belief that the employee carried out the act of alleged misconduct, have reasonable grounds for holding that belief, and, at the time the belief was held, have carried out as much investigation as was reasonable taking into account their size and resources available to them.

The decision to dismiss must also fall within the range of reasonable responses which an employer may take. Decisions that may be viewed as “harsh” or “lenient” can still fall within the range of reasonable responses when all circumstances and factors are taken into account by an employer. It is important to remember that a tribunal judge will not substitute their own view for what sanction should have been given, but will simply make a ruling as to whether it was reasonable for that employer to have reached the decision it did.

Taking the biscuit

As a police constable, PC Dwyer’s job was to enforce the law. His actions regarding the Jaffa Cakes were described by the disciplinary panel chairman as “dishonest and of a criminal nature”, and although were recognised to be of low monetary value, could therefore bring his employer into disrepute. Put simply, an individual, whose job was to enforce the law, broke the law himself. In addition, he was found to have breached West Yorkshire Police’s professional standards regarding integrity, honesty and discreditable conduct.

An employee’s admission and/or remorse may be taken into account when deciding whether dismissal is reasonable or whether a lesser penalty might be given. Unfortunately for PC Dwyer, the panel found that he had given dishonest accounts when questioned, in an attempt to reduce his culpability.

When taking all the above into account, the panel concluded that the act of failing to pay full price for the Jaffa Cakes, was one of gross misconduct entitling the police to dismiss with immediate effect. Although this decision may be viewed as harsh by some, it is a good reminder for both employers and employees of the factors that an employer can take into account when dealing with instances of alleged misconduct.

For advice about employment law matters, contact Furley Page employment team on 01227 763939.