Here at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, we often advise clients who are facing expenses-related disciplinary allegations at work. If you are in this situation, please do not panic. We are specialist employment solicitors, and we are here to help. Please read on to find out more.
What Are Expenses?
Most workplaces will have their own policies in relation to reimbursing work-related expenses to their employees. Such expenses will need to be properly incurred and could include, for example, travel fees to/from client meetings, accommodation costs whilst on work trips and food allowances.
You will usually be expected to either pay for the expense personally and then “claim back” the money from your employer or, alternatively, you may be provided with a company card to incur the fee directly.
Claiming expenses in the workplace is very common and indeed, to some extent, standard practice. However, if you act wrongly or inappropriately, this could lead to disciplinary action being taken against you.
Can I Be Disciplined For My Expenses At Work?
The short answer is yes, you can.
Here at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, we often advise clients who are facing expenses-related disciplinary allegations at work. By way of example, some of the allegations I have assisted my clients with include:
- Submitting expenses claims (i.e., requesting reimbursement from their employer) for expenses that were not, in fact, work-related.
- Sending duplicate requests for one expense to their employer.
- Submitting claims outside of the relevant time period (i.e., too long after the expense had been occurred).
- Not seeking management approval before incurring an expense.
- Incurring expenses over and above a specified amount in their employer’s expenses policy; and
- Falsifying expenses forms and related receipts.
The possible disciplinary sanction will, ultimately, depend on your personal circumstances and what you have allegedly done. A one-off mistake or a slight misunderstanding of your employer’s expenses policy may, if proven, only reasonably warrant a verbal or written warning. It may also be reasonable to require retraining of your employer’s policy and procedures.
Importantly, however, expenses-related disciplinary allegations can be deemed acts of gross misconduct.
To explain, there is no set definition of gross misconduct, as it often depends on the facts of each individual case and each particular employer. However, the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinaries and Grievances describes acts of gross misconduct as “so serious in themselves or have such serious consequences that they may call for dismissal without notice for a first offence.”
Your employer may have their own list of acts deemed as gross misconduct in their Employee Handbook or Disciplinary Policy. However, fraud and theft are, in fact, common examples of gross misconduct. As illustrated in the above list of allegations, both theft and fraud can often be at the forefront of expenses-related misconduct.
Can I Be Dismissed For My Expenses At Work?
The short answer is, potentially yes!
If you are found to have committed expenses-related misconduct, your employer could decide that your actions are so serious they constitute gross misconduct and warrant summary dismissal (i.e., without notice). To be clear, this could be the case even if you have a completely clear disciplinary record. Your employer may still consider your actions are sufficiently serious to break the employment relationship.
Alternative to the above, you may already have a live warning or disciplinary sanction on your record. In such circumstances, even if your current actions are not gross misconduct, your disciplinary record could unfortunately push any disciplinary sanction to dismissal.
Importantly, you should, however, be afforded the opportunity to appeal your dismissal. For more information about this, please see here – https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/how-do-i-appeal-my-gross-misconduct-dismissal/
I Have Been Dismissed For My Expenses At Work – Do I Have An Employment Tribunal Claim Of Unfair Dismissal?
The short answer is, again, potentially yes!
Generally, you need at least two years’ service with your employer to bring a claim of Unfair Dismissal at the Employment Tribunal. There are, however, limited exceptions to this rule. For more information about this, please see our blog here – https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/unfair-dismissal-less-than-two-years-service/
If you have at least two years’ service with your employer or one of the exceptions (as above) applies, you may have a potential claim for Unfair Dismissal in the Employment Tribunal.
To explain, in a claim of Unfair Dismissal, the burden would be on your employer to prove to the Employment Tribunal that:
- They had a potentially fair reason to dismiss you; and
- In the circumstances, it was reasonable to dismiss you.
I have addressed each of the above points below.
- Did Your Employer Have a Potentially Fair Reason To Dismiss You?
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, there are five potentially fair reasons for dismissing an employee. One of those reasons is (mis) conduct.
To rely on this reason, your employer would need to prove that your conduct was, in fact, the reason for your dismissal (for example, that it was not used as a front for a different reason) and that they had a justifiable and genuine belief that you had committed the acts of misconduct.
- In The Circumstances, Did Your Employer Act Reasonably in Dismissing You?
Even if your employer can identify a potentially fair reason for your dismissal, this does not necessarily mean the dismissal was, in fact, fair. For a claim of Unfair Dismissal, the Employment Tribunal would then look at the reasonableness of the dismissal. The Employment Tribunal would consider if your employer’s decision to dismiss you falls within the “band of reasonable responses”. In essence, whether a reasonable employer could have made the same decision.
As part of this consideration, an Employment Tribunal would consider the following:
(i) Did Your Employer Follow a Fair Disciplinary Procedure?
(ii) Was Dismissal A Reasonable Sanction?
(iii) Did Your Employer Act Consistently? For example, if your employer decided not to dismiss (or decided not to even investigate) another employee for acting in the same way with their expenses, your employer may struggle to defend a claim of Unfair Dismissal.
Unfair Dismissal – Time Limits
If you have been dismissed from your employment and you wish to pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal, it is very important that you are aware of the relevant time limits.
You must start the Employment Tribunal process within three months (less one day) of the date of your dismissal. You start the Employment Tribunal process by initiating ACAS Early Conciliation. More information about ACAS Early Conciliation can be found here – https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/acas-early-conciliation-what-is-it-all-about/
For more information about a claim of Unfair Dismissal, please see our blog here – https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/can-you-claim-unfair-dismissal-if-you-have-been-sacked-for-gross-misconduct/
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Can Help You
Here at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, we regularly advise clients who are facing expenses-related misconduct allegations or who have, unfortunatley, been dismissed from their employment. We understand that such circumstances can have a devastating effect on you and your family. As specialist employment solicitors, we would be delighted to help you.
If you would like a free consultation with one of the team at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, please contact us for a free no obligation consultation with a fully qualified Employment Solicitor. Simply use the contact form, engage in a web chat, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01522 440512 and we’ll be happy to help.
Specialist Employment Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors
Tags: acas code on disciplinaries and grievances acas early conciliation appeal dismissal defending a disciplinary disciplinary allegations disciplinary at work expenses Kate Key lincs law employment solicitors specialist employment solicitor unfair dismissal