Fired for watching the football! Unfair dismissal risk.

football crowd

Fired for watching the football!

There’s always one….

60,000 people can now take their seat in Wembley. What’s the chances you might think of being caught by the roaming camera?

Slim, you would hope if you were ‘pulling a sickie’. One in 60,000? Being generous let’s say the camera catches 4 clear faces, which reduces your offs to one in 15,000? Still not feeling nervous?

The odds clearly felt good enough for Nina Farooqi, who it was reported by the Daily Mail was fired for watching the football, after beings spotted by her bosses on camera at Wembley, despite calling in sick for the day.

It’s a story that regularly does the rounds following big sporting events. Farooqi knew the game was up when she received a text message at half time. It is reported she said ‘there is a bit of regret, no one wants to get fired, but then also I would have hated the regret of missing out. I’d do it all over again’.

Daily Mail comments section is always a sure source of entertainment, in this particular example there was little sympathy for Faroopi, with comments ranging from ‘didn’t she have enough time off in the past 18 months’, ‘take a day off unpaid if necessary’, ‘it’s a simple choice. Take a day off without permission to watch a football match or keep your job. Most sensible people would have chosen the latter’, ‘why didn’t she book a days holiday’

Others pointed out that her actions were selfish, as someone would have had to cover her shift and miss the game. One in particular made a comment about the dismissal itself:

‘Who is saying being off sick does not mean you can go out and enjoy yourself? The way things have turned out now I say good luck with that to the boss if it goes to tribunal’.

So what are the chances of that?

It depends, if she had been employed less than 2 years, a text at half time could well mean that there is very little Farooq could do about the dismissal (provided there are no other complicating factors such as disability).

If Farooq has over 2 years’ service and perhaps not the best employment history peppered with absences/disciplinary action (presumption only for the purposes of example) then whilst the outcome may well be deemed fair, there would be the potential that Farooq could be successful on an unfair dismissal claim on the basis of lack of procedure.

By sending the text message dismissing her, if that is what occurred, there would have been a total lack of procedure, no invitation letter, no meeting and no chance for Farooq to present any mitigating circumstances (which is crucial for the employer’s own interests in the event there is something more risky lurking beneath the surface).  Don’t risk an unfair dismissal claim by not following procedure.

All wouldn’t be lost however, the fact that she has lied to her employer, and openly admitted it is behaviour that would repeat, the employer would have a relatively solid basis for concluding gross misconduct had occurred and that there was a prospect that the behaviour could be repeated, a pretty good example of breach of trust and confidence. It is likely therefore that any award to Farooq would suffer either a substantial or total reduction on the basis of contributory fault (i.e her behaviour contributed to her dismissal), and on the basis that had a proper procedure been followed she would have been dismissed in any event.


Elissa Thursfield