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Local Business loses ET

Priority Referencing and Guarantee Ltd, based in Bordon, lost an Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal in a Southampton court during December 2011.

The Directors, Nicholas Grange-Bennett and Jacinta Grange-Bennett, residents of Passfield, had dismissed their office manager, for gross misconduct whilst she was recovering from having a hip replacement in September 2010.

Mr Grange-Bennett claimed his office manager had used her office computer for excessive personal use and that he had been advised that this amounted to gross misconduct.

However, in court they were unable to prove that any parts of the contract of employment had been broken by her, and had no evidence to support their claim. Their IT support company was never asked to provide any written statement.

Documentation they provided showed an average of one personal website visit per day.

Mr & Mrs Grange-Bennett represented themselves in court having taken no professional legal advice. Mr Grange Bennett later said "Regretfully, I relied on the in house services of my own lawyer. Sadly, for me she got things very wrong."

The Tribunal awarded over £33,000 which should have been paid by the 4th March 2012. As yet they have been unable to make the payment and interest is being incurred. Action is currently being taken to recover the award.

Prior to the case being heard the Directors sold Priority Referencing and Guarantee Ltd (03693713) to Safetylet Ltd (07483716) a company they registered in January 2011 with only themselves as directors.

This case serves as a strong reminder to Directors that legal advice should always be sought before dismissing an employee, and in the event that dismissal relies on "evidence" that a qualified expert has analysed it and provided a written formal report to the Directors before action is taken.

[Update from Mr Grange-Bennett's 'own lawyer' added December 2012]

To state that a service was relied upon, leads the reader to assume that advice was sought and advice was followed. That would not be a correct assumption in this case.

It is the responsibility of any director to act in the best interests of their company and also to understand the consequences of their acts. This includes such things as incurring debts knowing that they cannot be paid, trading at a loss, or failing to take reasonable steps to minimise the loss to creditors. In this there is a duty to exercise independent judgment but also to act with diligence.

In the instance referred to above, verbal intervention was given on many issues, for example: tax issues, winding up companies, failure to keep adequate company documentation, and directors duties under company law. To the knowledge of the person offering that advice – it was not acted upon.

When the issue of employee misconduct was raised, advice was given that the course of action being proposed would most definitely result in a tribunal claim and appropriate specialist advice should be sought with forensic computer analysis. To the knowledge of the person offering that advice – it was not acted upon.

Due to the general forgetfulness, perpetual loss of memory regarding business agreements and general ill-health, draft letters were provided in skeleton form. These were given under the proviso that due consideration would be given to each and advice sought where required. When asked about specific points, the person requesting that advice was always told – it is your letter – not mine. That message was made absolutely clear in every instance.

Directors must accept responsibility for their companies and they should exercise their own independent judgement when accepting advice (and deciding whether to act upon that advice or ignore it). It is this ‘independence’ pre-requisite that makes a nonsense of any implication that it was someone else’s fault.

Claiming that fault lies with another person when you are a ‘sole director’ is a simple display of a failure to exercising independent judgement and/or a failure to accept the responsibility for your own acts and omissions. If mistakes and catastrophes continually fall around you like playing cards – and you believe that in all cases it is surely someone else’s fault and you are not to blame – then it is time to re-evaluate your belief system.

[end of update]

Further legal action is currently being considered against both Nicolas and Jacinta Grange-Bennett to prevent them holding company directorships.

Mrs Jacinta Grange-Bennett directorships :
Priority Referencing and Guarantee Ltd (resigned, leaving no active Directors)
Safetylet Ltd (resigned)
Hospice Services at Home TLC Ltd (resigned, now re-instated)
Priority Palliative Care Ltd (liquidated)
Priority Guarantee Ltd (dissolved)
Priority Insurance Brokers Ltd (dissolved)
Pals Hospice Care at Home Ltd (dissolved)

Mr Nicholas Grange-Bennett directorships:
Priority Referencing and Guarantee Ltd (resigned, leaving no active Directors)
Safetylet Ltd
Hospice Services at Home TLC Ltd
Priority Palliative Care Ltd (liquidated)
Safetylet Tenant Selection Ltd (dissolved)
Reference Express Ltd (dissolved)
Priority Guarantee Ltd (dissolved)
Priority Insurance Brokers Ltd (dissolved)
Pals Hospice Care at Home Ltd (dissolved)

Nicholas Grange Bennett
Jacinta Grange Bennett

Article posted on: 10 October 2013

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