BMW factory worker wins £16,000 payout over dismissal for collecting sandwiches

A BMW assembly line worker has won more than £16,000 after being sacked for collecting sandwiches from his car during his break.

Ryan Parkinson successfully sued his employer GI Group, a recruitment company which provides temporary labour to BMW’s Oxford factory, for unfair dismissal after his supervisor claimed that he had left the site on two occasions without permission.

Mr Parkinson argued that he had only gone to the car park to collect his sandwiches, an area which he considered part of the factory site.

It was the second time that Mr Parkinson had been sacked over claims he left the BMW factory, which manufactures the Mini, without permission.

Mr Parkinson was first sacked after his supervisor at the BMW factory filed an incident report claiming that he “disappeared” during a Sunday overtime shift at 7.50pm on June 17 2018.

BMW Mini production line
The assembly line at BMW’s Oxford plant (Steve Parsons/PA)

His supervisor said that Mr Parkinson had not asked anyone for permission, and that he returned at 8.45pm with a meal from Burger King.

He confronted Mr Parkinson, who then went home, appearing “upset”.

Three days later Mr Parkinson was interviewed about the incident, and said that he left for Burger King after his team finished a particular job and began to discuss food.

“We finished the cell at around 19.50, we were saying what we doing about food,” he said.

“Everyone wanted a kebab and I said I wanted a Burger King.”

He said that he then got on a scooter and went to Burger King. After he collected his Burger King he sat in his car and began to eat it.

He added that he rang a colleague from his car to ask him what was going on back at the factory.

“(The colleague) replied that they made us work through break as the kebab had not come yet,” he said.

“After I spoke I picked up what I had left from the Burger King and came inside looking for everyone.”

On August 23 Mr Parkinson was signed off work by his GP for work-related stress and anxiety. He continued to be signed off for stress and anxiety for further periods until February 2019.

He returned to work, but was subject to another incident report over allegedly leaving the site without permission on May 13 2019. Following investigation it was said that he had also left the site without permission on May 14.

A disciplinary hearing took place on May 15 2019 for the earlier Burger King incident and Mr Parkinson was sacked. However, this was replaced with a final warning after he successfully appealed the decision in June.

Mr Parkinson returned to work again on July 8, where he was immediately suspended again for leaving the site without permission on May 13 and May 14.

He was then sacked again on November 25 2019 for gross misconduct in leaving the work site without permission.

In his evidence, Mr Parkinson said that these two trips were to the car park to collect his sandwiches during a break. He also maintained that the car park was part of the site.

The tribunal found that there was genuine confusion in Mr Parkinson’s mind about what was “on site” or not, and that this was not “sufficiently or reasonably” investigated by his employer before sacking him.

The tribunal ruled that Mr Parkinson’s dismissal over the two May 2019 trips was “procedurally and substantively unfair”.

However, further claims of race discrimination, race-related harassment and victimisation made by Mr Parkinson against his employer were dismissed.