Gardener unfairly dismissed despite drink-driving conviction

A gardener was unfairly dismissed after he was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, a tribunal has ruled.

Lorne Anderson, who had a history of mental health issues, had worked for the Fife Health Board since 2001.

His employer required gardeners to have a full driving licence.

Anderson worked long hours, often six days a week. In 2009, he was on-call two out of three weeks during winter months after the board reduced the number of employees. He had to be ‘on standby’ 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

He was signed off work with anxiety and depression for three months in 2010, and again for four months in 2012.

Anderson managed his mental health issues with medication and continued to work until 2018.

One night he was on-call but not called in and was involved in a road accident while under the influence of alcohol.

He lost his licence and was banned from driving for two years.

Fife Health Board held an investigation. Anderson said that a combination of an argument with his girlfriend together with his heavy workload had exacerbated his mental health issues and contributed to his conviction.

Senior management accepted that Anderson’s workload may have been a factor but deemed his actions to be gross misconduct.

They set up a series of disciplinary hearings, but Anderson failed to attend due to his anxiety and depression.

The board wrote to Anderson to inform him that his employment had been terminated due to gross misconduct.

He brought a claim of unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal, which ruled in his favour.

It held that, while losing a licence due to a drink-driving conviction could be considered reasonable grounds for dismissal, the board had only considered Anderson’s increased workload during the investigation.

It had acted unreasonably in not also considering his mental health issues.

Anderson was awarded £10,208 compensation.

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