Driver nets £31k for unfair dismissal over Scots workload

A DELIVERY driver who claims he was treated in an “almost inhumane” way by his boss has been awarded almost £31,000 at an employment tribunal.

Mr Meredith worked for Harvey and Brockless. Picture: Google

Jesse Meredith, 29, told his manager at global company Harvey and Brockless that extra deliveries taking him all over the country might not be possible during one working day.

His boss said that if he didn’t make the expected deliveries he would be responsible for any company losses and Mr Meredith felt his job was in jeopardy.

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Mr Meredith - a university graduate - was on the road for more than 11 hours that day, not getting home until 8.45pm, five hours later than normal.

Days later he was sacked on the grounds of his “attitude and behaviour on January 24, 2014”.

After an employment tribunal in Glasgow, Mr Meredith from Worcestershire, was awarded £30,787 for unfair dismissal.

In a written judgement employment judge Ian McPherson said that the panel was “satisfied” that raising health and safety concerns during telephone calls was “the principal reason” for his dismissal.

He added that the fact Mr Meredith made “protected disclosures, in the public interest to show that a criminal offence was likely to be committed” and that the company were flouting legal and health and safety rules, was another reason.

Mr Meredith said: “My initial reaction when I realised how many hours I would be out on the road for was utter shock that such a mistake had happened and we hadn’t been informed beforehand.

“We literally found out that morning a mistake had been made the day before which would require us to work into the night basically, the initial reaction was just pure shock that they would expect that.”

Harvey and Brockless produce and distribute speciality foods and are known for their expertise in the dairy sector.

They deliver to top hotel chains including the Hilton and Marriott. Deliveries in Edinburgh include Hotel du Vin and the Witchery as a clients.

Mr Meredith worked from a depot in Bellshill and started around 6.30am, having left his house at 5.45am.

On January 24, 2014 he was told by his boss Kevin Darkes around 7am that he and his colleague would need to make additional deliveries to Dundee and Aberdeen.

Mr Meredith expressed concerns that it might not be possible to do these with his normal deliveries including Edinburgh and St Andrews, but was told to do what he could and he would be monitored.

After a number of phone calls and drop offs, Mr Meredith called for advice when the post code given for the Dundee job was wrong.

He made the delivery then calculated his time to Aberdeen and his subsequent drive home and phoned Mr Darkes, feeling uncomfortable about the trip.

The hearing was told he left Mr Darkes a voice message saying it was unreasonable of the company to ask him to make the trip and he was going to drive towards Perth.

Within minutes Mr Darkes phoned to say he would be responsible for any losses if he didn’t make the delivery and that there would be repercussions.

Speaking yesterday (Tues) Mr Meredith said: “I can still hear his voice, it was terrible. I felt like there was so much pressure, it was a task that should never have been asked.

“It shouldn’t have got to that stage, not only was it not our responsibility, but to ask that of someone that had other jobs to do on the same day - it should have been unthinkable.

“I’ve had bad managers in my time, even bad managers can be professional he was just not professional. It was completely unprofessional, completely unreasonable, almost inhumane I would say.”

“He said ‘you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into’, I remember that. He made me feel like my job was in jeopardy if I didn’t do it.”

Mr Meredith said it wasn’t until that phone call that he felt so pressured, he had been under the impression that he should just do what he could in the time.

He added: “Mr Darkes was literally shouting and it didn’t help the way I was feeling at that point.”

Mr Meredith hung up when Mr Darkes shouted at him on the phone and spoke to an HR employee who said that the deliveries were at Mr Darkes’ discretion.

He inquired with HR if there was any legal limit on driver’s hours but ultimately made the trip in fear that he would lose his job and the company money.

The driver had no rest break and had been on duty for more than 11 hours that day and driving for more than 10 of them.

Days later on January 29, Mr Darkes told him that he was sacked with immediate effect “because of his attitude and behaviour on Januay 24, 2014”.

The dad-of-two said: “It was a massive shock to literally not hear a word from anybody about the incident and to just suddenly have him appear and say ‘go home’ basically and not come back.”

Mr Meredith used the company handbook for guidance on the working procedures.

This was something he had done in the past when he complained about the facilities at the Belshill depot where he worked, flagging up potential hazards at at the height of winter.

This went unnoticed at the time and he never received a reply.

He lodged a grievance relating to his dismissal and money owed, and appealed against the dismissal after finally receiving confirmation from the company around February 19.

This was unsuccessful and he was never reinstated.

Mr Meredith’s solicitor, Margaret Gribbon said: “The strong public interest element in these type of cases cannot be underestimated.

“Where it is found that a worker has been victimised or dismissed for raising health and safety concerns then they are entitled to expect the full protection of the law and it is reassuring that in this case the employment tribunal decided to forward their findings to VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency).”