Employee fired for online shopping wins huge payout

We’ve all been guilty of using some spare time in our working day to browse online for that all-important outfit for the weekend or to order a birthday present for a loved one, but have we ever stopped to think that this could be a sacking offence?

A single mother who worked at Finlayson’s law firm in Kilwinning was removed from her role after her boss’s wife raised some concerns regarding her browsing habits, despite not being told that she couldn’t use the internet during her breaks – The Times reported.

Following the secretary’s dismissal, Ashley McMahon has since been awarded a £16,000 payout after being unlawfully sacked.

Back in October 2017 McMahon was confronted by Joan Finlayson, who managed the office on behalf of her husband William, where she left McMahon feeling ‘flustered’ and ‘close to tears’.

Following the altercation, the former employee took time off work due to stress and anxiety and responded to a letter from Finlayson asking for a meeting upon her return with a sick note from her GP.

Shockingly, the employer then chose to raise concerns about McMahon’s work and said he and his wife had discussed it with her parents as they were family friends.

“I was shocked to be told you were blaming your condition on things which were happening in my office and were upset that ‘your’ computer had been looked at, and that was why you did not come back to work on October 31,” Finlayson wrote: – “I am left in the situation of not knowing [to] what you are attributing your current condition, but I do not accept for one moment that is caused by anything at work.”

Despite McMahon stating that she will return to her role by the end of the year, her employer set a date for a disciplinary meeting in November, claiming that her usage of the internet, quality of work, timekeeping and productivity were all reasons for calling it, The Times revealed.

The former employee responded criticising her boss’s ‘persistent harassment’, which she believed was a factor in prolonging her illness, preventing her from returning to work.

Four days later, McMahon received another letter from Finlayson informing her that she was being removed from her role. “You have accused me of persistent harassment. This is a serious allegation of criminal conduct, which I totally refute, and destroys the employer/employee relationship,” he wrote.

Due to the employer’s unfair dismissal, an employment tribunal, which concluded in January this year, found that McMahon was in fact entitled to redundancy pay and further compensation due to her employer’s actions.

Most employees do feel comfortable within their office to carry some light online shopping during their working day, but good advice would be to check your contract or employee handbook to see if anything suggests employees are not allowed to do so.

If you need to purchase something during the day, I suggest you do so during your breaks so that you are not distracting yourself from the tasks of the working day.