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Home base worker who accused hardware chain of HYPNOTIZING its staff loses unfair layoff claim

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Home base worker fired after accusing hardware store chain of HYPNOTIZING its staff loses false layoff claim

  • Peter Smallman said managers used hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming
  • After complaints about his behavior he was transferred to another store
  • When he refused to work at the other shop, in Broadstairs, he was fired
  • Mr Smallman claimed he was fired because of the previous allegations he made
  • However, a labor court ruled that Homebase had the right to fire him










A Homebase employee who accused the company of hypnotizing its employees and was later fired for refusing to work from another store has lost his claim for unfair dismissal.

Peter Smallman accused Homebase management of covertly using “hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming” and even reported it to the Health and Safety Executive and the city.

He worked as a team member at the shop in Folkestone, Kent, for less than three years, until bosses tried to transfer him to another shop after several complaints about his behavior from other colleagues.

But when he refused to work at another store, he was fired, leading Mr. Smallman to claim he had been unfairly fired.

He believed he had been fired because of the previous allegations he had made about his managers and the CEO, but an employment tribunal ruled that Homebase was well within its rights to fire him.

An employment tribunal heard that Peter Smallman worked as a team member at the shop in Folkestone, Kent (pictured) for less than three years, until bosses tried to transfer him to another shop after several complaints about his behavior from other colleagues. When he refused, he was fired, leading Mr. Smallman to claim he had been unfairly fired

The tribunal heard that Mr Smallman’s working relationship with local management and other staff at the Folkestone store had “been fundamentally broken” over his complaints.

The judge said: ‘[Mr Smallman] had made numerous very serious allegations against local management and the CEO.

‘He claimed that’ [Homebase] was involved in hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming, which would have a profound effect on staff both at home and at work. He gave no basis for his belief.

‘He reported this to the Occupational Health and Safety Service and the municipality. They took no action.

“He suggested that a local manager… adjust the taps in the toilets (so that very little water came out) to be unpleasant for employees, despite sharing these facilities with the public.

During an investigation into his grievances, a colleague reported that… [Mr Smallman] told him he wanted his local manager to die a slow and painful death.’

A disciplinary investigation began, but Homebase decided to drop this course of action and instead transfer Mr. Smallman to the shop in Broadstairs, Kent, about 40 miles away.

Bosses told him in a letter that this was because they were “very concerned that it is simply not feasible to unravel all this and restore relations to a professional level where all parties can work together.”

Homebase offered to change Mr. Smallman’s roster from working 20 hours a week for four days to working 20 hours a week for three days after Mr. Smallman expressed “concerns about the additional travel time and travel costs” when working from a alternative store.

The tribunal heard that Homebase also agreed to cover its additional travel expenses and shorten its working day by 30 minutes for a period of six months.

The tribunal judge said: ‘It was a reasonable response for’ [Homebase] to leave the disciplinary process and move [Mr Smallman] to another workplace. This was … a pragmatic way to solve the problems.’

Homebase dropped a disciplinary investigation into Mr Smallman's behavior and instead transferred him to work at the Broadstairs store (pictured) 25 miles away.  However, instead of going to his new workplace as instructed in May 2019, he refused and instead went to Folkestone, where he was asked to vacate the premises, heard a tribunal, and he was suspended.

Homebase dropped a disciplinary investigation into Mr Smallman’s behavior and instead transferred him to work at the Broadstairs store (pictured) 25 miles away. However, instead of going to his new workplace as instructed in May 2019, he refused and instead went to Folkestone, where he was asked to vacate the premises, heard a tribunal, and he was suspended.

However, instead of going to his new place of work in Broadstairs on 14 May 2019 as instructed, Mr Smallman refused and went to Folkestone instead.

The court heard that he should be asked to vacate the premises and this led to suspension.

He was then fired by David Wells, who was Area Manager and Regional Manager for the Southeast region and is now Divisional Loss Manager, for not following the ‘reasonable instruction’ of working in the Broadstairs store.

The judge ruled that the dismissal was not unreasonable, as Mr Smallman claimed, concluding: ‘Under all circumstances, I find the decision to dismiss reasonable.

Failure to follow reasonable instruction is defined as both an act of misconduct and an act of gross misconduct in [Homebase’s] disciplinary procedure.

“I am convinced that the reason for the instruction was the break-up in the Folkestone store and that… [Homebase] adopted a reasonable process to resolve the issues.’

Another claim for late wages was also rejected by the court.

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