A COOK who was sacked for photocopying his staff rota has been awarded more than £15,000 at an employment tribunal.

Managers at Eildon House nursing home in Edinburgh suspected Mark Knowles was passing on information about staffing levels to the care watchdog so dismissed him for gross misconduct.

Mr Knowles claimed he was making a copy to remind him of his shifts but bosses believed he had breached confidentiality by copying the "data protected information".

The worker, from Edinburgh, has claimed he was shocked when he was sacked because he did not think he was doing anything wrong.

"It was in an open book in the staff room, which was open all day and night", he said. "Other staff were permitted for many years to make photocopies or use their mobile phones to take pictures of the rota.

"At the end of that week, I ripped up the copy and put it in the bin. I never handed the rota or any confidential information over to anyone.

"They had no evidence on this whatsoever but they still sacked me.

"When I went to the disciplinary hearing, my union rep told me the worst I could expect was a verbal warning because the rota wasn't marked as confidential so when they dismissed I was very surprised."

The tribunal in Glasgow heard that Eildon House had been subjected to a number of inspections by the Care Inspectorate some months previous following complaints about staffing levels and medication not being administered correctly.

None of these complaints were upheld.

During Mr Knowles' disciplinary hearing, the operations director at the time, Ian McMaster, made reference to the previous complaints despite having no evidence linking Mr Knowles to those complaints.

Employment judge Reginald Christie found in the worker's favour and awarded him a total of £15,341 because the decision to sack him was "tainted by what can only have been a suspicion".

In a written judgment on the case, the judge said: "All staff at Eildon House possess the information shown on the weekly rotas. That much is obvious and at no point was it suggested that Mr Knowles had become possessed of information he was not already entitled to have.

"However, what was suggested by Eildon Care was something of which they had no evidence or knowledge i.e. that that information had in fact been transmitted by the claimant to someone else."

Eildon Care was also criticised for breaching the ACAS code of practice by not allowing Mr Knowles - who had also raised a grievance with the firm over wages - a proper appeal.

Judge Christie added that "no reasonable employer" would have taken the decisions that Eildon Care did in this case.

Mr Knowles said he was pleased with the judgment but had been "put through a lot" to get there.

He said: "It's been a fairly long legal process, if I was a more thin-skinned or sensitive individual it would probably have been very distressing.

"I'm just annoyed that it's taken so long to get here."

Derick MacLean, of Thompsons Solicitors, who represented Mr Knowles, said: "The Tribunal found that my client was dismissed for nothing other than having photocopied his rota.

"His employer clearly had suspicions about the reasons he had done so, however they never at any point in the disciplinary process articulated those suspicions.

"This is an important lesson to employers that they cannot dismiss employees simply because they suspect wrongdoing, rather they must give employees the opportunity to defend themselves. "The Tribunal increased Mr Knowles’ compensatory award because his employer breached ACAS guidelines by not allowing him an appeal against his dismissal, so this is also a reminder to employers that they must follow correct procedures or face the consequences."