It seems that the husband's heroics generated a media stir
at the time, which led to the employer back in Wales finding out
the couple were vacationing in Australia when they were supposed to
be on disability leave. The employer decided to terminate
their employment, thus generating the current media storm.
It is possible, even likely, that there is more to the story
than is currently being told, but the employer's reported
reasoning is pretty thin. While we can't opine on
employment law in Wales, we can review the issues that employers in
British Columbia have to consider before taking such a step.
First, it must be determined if the vacation in Australia, and
the ability to wrestle a shark, is clearly inconsistent with the
disability leave. If the leave was to tend to an ailment that
made travel impossible, or which would make shark wrestling very
difficult, the employer would have a solid basis for suspicion.
(The leave in this case was reportedly for stress, and the
employees are claiming they had medical advice to go on
Second, if there is some reasonable basis for suspicion, it is
best to make further inquiries before acting. Find out
exactly what the employee was doing and carefully compare that with
the stated reasons for the disability leave. Review the
latest medical information, ask the disability insurer for any
update they can provide, and gather other relevant information.
Third, meet with the employee. Ask the employee if s/he
did what was reported to you. If denied, tell the employee
what you have heard and parcel out the information you have until
you get an acknowledgement. If still denied, you can then
re-check your evidence and you may have further grounds to
terminate based on the employee's dishonesty.
If the employee acknowledges the activity, ask if and how the
employee considers that to be compatible with the disability leave.
Keep asking questions until you are satisfied you have heard
every justification the employee may have to offer.
Fourth, review all the evidence you have and the responses,
demeanour and general conduct of the employee. You need to
determine if the employee has misled you, abused the disability
leave, failed to follow medical advice, or otherwise acted in such
a way as to make continued employment impossible. If there is
a serious problem, but maybe not enough to terminate, consider
alternative discipline in accordance with any collective agreement
or employment agreement.
These are shark infested waters for employers and caution is
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