Tesco worker sacked over breakfast row gets €41,000 payout

Ms Kinsella worked at a Tesco outlet in a town in Co Wexford (FILE PHOTO)
Ms Kinsella worked at a Tesco outlet in a town in Co Wexford (FILE PHOTO)

A Tesco worker sacked for eating eggs, beans, toast and sausages and not immediately paying for them has been awarded €41,000 by a tribunal.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) ordered the Irish arm of the supermarket giant to pay Lisa Kinsella the money after finding that she was unfairly dismissed.

Ms Kinsella worked at a Tesco outlet in a town in Co Wexford.

She was one of four workers to be dismissed after CCTV footage captured them consuming food without immediately paying for the items at a café operated by Tesco.

In the case against Ms Kinsella, it was alleged that at 10.40am on May 22, 2013, she went to breakfast at the café, where she ate two eggs, beans, toast, a rasher, two sausages and a coffee and that no payment was made at the till.

The following day, CCTV footage also recorded Ms Kinsella getting food and, again, no payment being made at the till.

Ms Kinsella was suspended by Tesco on June 4, 2013, and she was dismissed on August 19.

She had worked for Tesco since 2001, and had an exemplary work record until her dismissal for gross misconduct through breaching Tesco's policy on honesty and staff purchases.

In her unfair dismissal action, Ms Kinsella said she had paid for the food at a later date and this had been common practice when a former café manager known as "TS" was employed between 1998 and 2002. In evidence, TS explained there was no strict policy and that food could be paid for by staff after consumption.

TS explained that staff in the canteen were not allowed to carry cash while working.

Ms Kinsella told the hearing - held over eight days between April and October 2015 - that all food consumed had been paid from the monies accumulated on the tip plate.

She said this was normal practice in the café.

Ms Kinsella also told the tribunal that had management informed her that what she was doing was against company policy, she would have ceased. She would not have wanted to lose her job because of it.

EH, a staff colleague who was also dismissed as a result of consuming food and not immediately paying for it, said that there could be €30/€40 in the tip plate on a busy day.

In its determination, the EAT found that there was a practice of paying later in respect of food consumed in the café.

The tribunal also found that this practice arose out of necessity in that Ms Kinsella could not have her purse with her while on duty in the café.

The EAT also said that Tesco's "Honesty Policy and Purchase Policy are not sufficiently clear when it comes to the consumption of food and are overridden by the existence of the practice of paying later for food".

The EAT also found that "there is no evidence that Ms Kinsella breached the honesty policy".

"The evidence is that she didn't pay at the time of purchase," it added.