Accountant fired over internet use 'unfairly dismissed'

Computer keyboard
Image caption The employment tribunal ruled Mr Innes had been unfairly dismissed

An accountant who was fired for his "excessive" internet use by a major energy company has been awarded almost £40,000 compensation.

David Innes, 42, lost his job with Scottish and Southern Energy after bosses concluded he spent a "ridiculous amount of time" surfing the web.

He was told his internet use breached of company policy after being accused of clocking up 27,500 website hits.

However an employment tribunal in Glasgow ruled his dismissal was unfair.

David Pratt, Scottish and Southern Energy's operations and performance manager, claimed Mr Innes must have known that "sitting at his desk doing nothing whilst going on the internet and sending emails was wrong".

His dismissal in February last year was triggered by this and a "failure to perform his duties", according to the company.

But tribunal chairman Ian McFatridge said Mr Pratt, who made the decision to fire Mr Innes, had "no idea" how to properly interpret the internet usage report.

"He made no attempt to obtain advice from the respondent's IT department," he said.

"His view was essentially that he was faced with this enormous report and this therefore showed an extraordinary amount of internet usage."

Mr McFatridge said Mr Innes, from Perth, had a history of mental health problems and was struggling with his work for more than a year following the death of his father.

"There was clearly a degree of exasperation with the claimant amongst the managers," he added.

The tribunal concluded Mr Innes could have taken greater steps to seek appropriate medical help and take sickness or bereavement leave, but unanimously agreed his dismissal was unfair.

Considering an appeal

Mr Innes, who had almost a decade's service with the energy supplier, was awarded £38,068 in compensation.

Father-of-three Mr Innes said: "I got what I was looking for and a fair recompense. Money is important but clearing my name is important. I feel my employer was trying to find something to push through a disciplinary process.

"Obviously I think I could have been re-instated."

A spokesman for Scottish and Southern Energy said it was considering an appeal against the decision.

He added: "We're disappointed with the decision, however we've got 40 days to consider what our next form of action will be."

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