Employee sacked for '21-second oversight' awarded £43,000

A slaughterhouse worker with 40 years’ experience who was sacked for a “21-second oversight” has won his claim of unfair dismissal.

Brian Christie had worked for the meat processing company McIntosh Donald for 42 years and reached the position of supervisor.

He was dismissed following an incident that occurred while an audit of the company procedures was being carried out on behalf of Tesco. The auditors saw an employee lift a sheep by its hind legs, a method that breached animal welfare standards.

Mr Christie was not present at the time. However, a company manager then checked CCTV footage from before the visit that apparently showed Mr Christie seeing an employee handle a sheep in the same way.

The company suspended him on the basis that he had been guilty of gross misconduct in not intervening to prevent his co-worker mistreating the animal.  Mr Christie claimed he had not seen the incident, which only last 21 seconds, but he was dismissed along with the co-worker.

The Employment Tribunal accepted his claim of unfair dismissal.

Judge Ian McFatridge held that it was “going too far” to suggest that Mr Christie would have noticed the animal being mistreated given the speed of the incident. He was guilty, at most, of an oversight.

It was clear that the company had decided a senior supervisor’s “head was going to roll” because of what had happened in front of the auditors.

Judge McFatridge said: "It appeared to me that by doing this the respondents sought to head off any criticism of them which might arise regarding the later incident and indeed this strategy appears to have been successful."

Mr Christie was awarded £43,000 damages.


Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.


to chat