A former chef who complained to his employer that he was not being paid the minimum wage was sacked by his employer by text. This case, Hillis v C & P Kitchens Limited  is a reminder to employers that if they do not pay the minimum wage and employees complain about it, it is highly risky to dismiss them, even if they do not have the 2 years’ service which is normally required to bring a claim for unfair dismissal.
In this case Mr Hillis started work in April 2014. He was employed as a chef and was paid a salary which would have been more than the minimum wage had he worked 40 hours a week. However, in practice he worked about 60 hours a week, which meant that his hourly rate fell below the minimum wage.
He raised this with his employer and a few days later went off sick. His employer then sent him abusive text messages accusing him of falsifying his sickness and dismissing him for gross misconduct. Mr Hillis brought a claim of unfair dismissal, claiming that he had been dismissed because he had raised the issue of not being paid the minimum wage. The employer argued that was not the case, and Mr Hillis had been dismissed for falsifying his sickness. The Tribunal found in Mr Hillis’ favour, and awarded him compensation for unfair dismissal, arrears of pay and compensation for his notice period.
The case is a reminder that although employees normally need 2 years’ service in order to bring a claim of unfair dismissal, there are important exceptions to the 2 year rule. One of these is that the dismissal is due to the fact that the employee raised an issue that the employer had breached a statutory right, for example not paying the minimum wage. It does not matter whether the employer had actually breached a statutory right; all that is required is that the employee reasonably believed that they had, they had raised it and were dismissed as a result.
And what about dismissing by text? Well, it is effective in that it communicates the message, but is hardly good for employee relations! In addition, an employer who behaves like this is unlikely to endear themselves to any Tribunal and is therefore likely to be on the back foot in any subsequent litigation.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).