The Telford based employment law specialist warned that if an employee is dismissed for gross misconduct, they have no right whatsoever to carry on using their company car or equipment, and arguments of how inconvenient or unfair it is are irrelevant.
Mr Mehtam noted that many senior employees in businesses would have access to all kinds of company property which was theirs to use as part of their job.
“They may well have a company car, a laptop, and a mobile phone, which you have given them so they can carry out their work. But even if they use these items every day, perhaps even for personal reasons, they don’t own them. And everything belongs to your company at all times.
“So if you need to fire them for gross misconduct, they may well begin to complain about the inconvenience and refuse to hand the items back until they’ve bought their own. Legally though, their last day of employment is the day on which you give them the news, and at that point, your directors can take back any company property they have.
“If you’ve dismissed them in a face-to-face meeting, you can ask them to leave all the company property behind when they leave your offices on that very day. If you’re feeling charitable and they live some distance from your premises, you could arrange alternative transport or ask someone else to drive them home”.
The key points that the Shropshire solicitor made therefore are that all company property belongs to the business, and they must hand it back the moment they stop being an employee of the company. However, if employers feel they are being unfair to their former employee by following this advice, they should think about Mr Mehtam says next.
“There is absolutely no way they should be permitted to drive away in the company car – if they did, they could well be committing an offence anyway as your company insurance policy will probably only cover current staff and not ex-employees.”
So it isn't just a case of being fair; it is a case of being legal. If you dismiss them by letter rather than in a face to face meeting then their employment ends as soon as they read the letter itself.
Concerning the practicalities of the action, John said: “You should ask them to arrange to return all company property immediately, and you could even send someone to their home address to collect the items. If you don’t get an immediate response, say by the next working day, and they don’t have a reasonable explanation, you should tell them you intend to contact the police.”
John said that to make it clear to all employees and therefore appear less unfair if it happens, company directors should include a clause in the company’s literature saying that the employee has a responsibility to return all company property if their employment ends. This therefore leaves no doubt in either the employer or employees minds as to what will happen if there is a dismissal.
“You can also ask your employees to sign a company equipment policy which states that you will take the value of any outstanding items from their salary if they fail to return them,” suggests John, covering what to do if employees fail to return company property.
If you would like any further information regarding this or any other employment law issue, contact John Mehtam or visit the employment law page of Martin Kaye - http://www.martinkaye.co.uk/