Monday, 26 November 2012
Hand it back - it's not yours!
Senior employees dismissed for gross misconduct have no rights to continue using their company car or equipment - no matter how inconvenient it may be.
Our employment law specialist, John Mehtam, said many senior employees would have access to all kinds of company property 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.
"But 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."
John said if the dismissal had been by letter, their employment ended as soon as they read the letter itself.
"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 company directors should include a clause in company literature that says it's the employee's responsibility to return all company items if their employment ends.
"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."