Wednesday, 20 May 2009


M&S has found itself in the headlines over the last week for the wrong reasons. First there was the "bigger bras pay more" story which saw the business back-track on its pricing policy in the face of a Facebook campaign.

This week, Fashionista has read in Retail Week that M&S is back in the headlines facing a claim for unfair dismissal. In August last year, an employee leaked an internal memo to the press about the company's proposals to cut its redundancy pay scheme by up to 25% and this sparked fears of imminent redundancies at the company. M&S promptly did some email detective work, traced the leads back to the offending employee and summarily dismissed him for gross misconduct. Now the retailer is in the spotlight again as it goes head to head with the former employee, whose claim for unfair dismissal and breach of human rights is being heard in the Employment Tribunal this week.

Leaks to the press can be very damaging for reputations as well as being expensive. Fashionista can see a few lessons to learn here. Consultations with employees must be genuine and this will help to avoid disgruntled employees trying to gain a wider audience (the ex M&S employee says he leaked the memo because he felt the consultation about the cuts was a sham). Also, employers and employees need to pay close attention to what their contracts and the business' rules say about things like confidentiality, grievances, disciplinary action, email monitoring and whistle blowing when dealing with confidential information leaks to the press. Finally, Fashionista reminds all fashion businesses that employers will always need to pay statutory redundancy pay as a minimum where a redundant employee has been employed for two years or more.