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can they sack me? please help!


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I have a company credit card which i have been using for personal use for a number of years now, many of my colleagues do the same. I must stress straight off that the company do not pay the bill, i pay this directly to the credit card company and i have never, ever claimed any of my personal purchases back on company expenses. Our company policy is very strict on expenses and receipts are checked and must be signed off - so this could never, ever happen anyway!

 

The thing is, i do not always pay the bill on time because my husbands salary is paid at a different time of the month and his salary covers the credit card bills. It is always paid in full every month, albeit late. I admit to being totally foolish and flippant and thinking,,, oh ill pay that soon, oh it'll be fine, i have really mis-managed the payment of the card even although i am super organised at everything else. I never take risks with household bills or my own personal credit card so i absolutely accept i have been irresponsible with the company card - but never in my life did i think it could get me into trouble!

 

I have today been informed by my manager that HR have investigated my use of my card and have identified that i am in breach of use and i have been called into the office for an investigation ( i am currently on maternity leave leave).

 

I am going out of my mind with worry, i have a full week to wait to meet my manager and i dont know if this counts as gross misconduct or not. Surely not?? Surely it could only count as gross misconduct if the company were paying the bill on my behalf - which they are not! Or if i claimed for items i shouldnt have - which i never have!!

 

He says this is just an investigation at this stage and HR will determine afterwards if it should go to a formal hearing... oh please help... what does everyone think??

 

Any fees or interest charged as a result of my paying late is charged to and paid by me, not the company, so they are not out of pocket. I checked this with the credit card company today, however, my manager mentioned something on the phone today (i didnt quiet hear as i was still in shock) about the company being charged - but this is not what i have been told by the credit card company.

 

My plan for my meeting is to take all 12 months of my personal credit card statement in with me to show that this is paid, in full every single month (so they are aware of my financial intergrity). I will then ask my manager to look at my company credit card bills and to reconcile these against what i claimed on expenses and he will see that there if there was a shortfall - it was obviously covered by me. So, say i had a bill of £500, i may have claimed £300 leaving a balance of £200 for my personal items which i paid for. I will just hold my hands up and say i was really foolish with the company card and im sorry. I hope that will be the end of it but i dont know if it counts as Gross Misconduct and if they could sack me anyway .

 

To be honest i used it as a way of making sneaky purchases that my husband didnt see - i thought it was a luxury. Now im utterly humilated and embarrased and feel like the company are making an example out of me (all my colleauges use their card for personal use) i do however accept i was late in my payments.

 

If the company have been charged then i will of course offer to pay them back - but i would want to see proof of that as i have been told something different from the credit card company.

 

Ill stop rambling now... any advice would be much appreciated. I dont know what id do if i lost my job over a silly few items on a credit card. We've just had a baby :-(

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Hi there and sorry to learn of your predicament.

 

First thing to look at is whether you have actually done anything 'wrong'. There is presumably a contractual agreement or separate document relating to the use of the Company credit card? What does this say about what you can and cannot purchase on the card, and what arrangements should be made for payments?

 

Is the card issued in the name of the company, or in your personal name? It is highly unlikely if all paperwork is sent to you, and payments are always made by you that the company should have incurred any cost, but that may not be relevant depending on the questions raised above.

 

Now depending on the acceptable use of the card, and your contractual obligations, further information may well be relevant. Do you know whether the company receive duplicate statements? If so, then it may be possible to argue that they have allowed personal use of the card, ie due to their acceptance of previous personal use over an extended period of time, it has become customary to do so irrespective of any earlier contractual term. Similarly, if you are to be punished for personal use of the card, then those others who similarly make purchases which don't fall into the category of what is company business, must be similarly sanctioned. Are the company aware that others have done the same as you? Are you prepared to enlighten them?

 

As to whether your actions constitute Gross Misconduct? If you have knowingly breached the terms of use, then almost certainly, although there should be a clause in the card usage policy which states that 'any use other than for company business will be deemed a matter of Gross Misconduct', and in mitigation, no theft or fraud has occurred. If the contract of employment is not specific in stating that misuse is a matter of GM, then in order to make a case they would have to argue that any reasonable person would have known that this was a matter likely to destroy the fundamental trust between employer and employee, and clearly you didn't.

 

I would strongly suggest that you consider legal advice. Whether you do so before or after the investigation is up to you, but if (as I fear it will) this is escalated to a disciplinary hearing, it is crucial that you are as well prepared as you can possibly be.

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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Thankyou for your reply i appreciate your help. I am having a friend of mine look into the grounds of GM for me today under the Company Disciplinary Policy - i do not know if the use of the company card is detailed in that policy or not. My manager is sending me the credit card terms today and will be highlighting where there are breaches. There are 3 breaches;

 

1. Using the card for personal use

2. Not having a direct debit set up

3. Not paying on time.

 

The credit card statement is sent to me and no copies are recieved by the company so, whilst i fully accept i was irresponsible and flippant with the card i (absolutely like you say) had no idea it would result in anything like this happeneing, and i was completly of the impression (wrongly i know) that the card was my responsibility and i had to manage it (albeit badly!)

 

So yes, i guess i knowling breached these conditions. I cant make any excuses - i was wrong and im sorry, humiliated and embarrased about the whole thing!

 

Yes the company know that other people use their card for personal use and an email was sent to all card users yesterday reminding them not to use the card for personal use (my friend is sending me a copy of the email). She said the email made no reference to GM though...

 

Can you help me with who i should speak to for free legal advice on the matter?

 

Thanks again

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I don't know about free legal advice and I don't see you getting legal aid for this.

 

Your CAB may have someone or they should have contacts with local law firms. You may be able to get an initial half hour meeting free of charge. Or if you have a local law centre, you could ask them.

 

Could the company be worried about their credit rating? If someone pays late, then normally the card company tells one of the credit agencies and it's kept on record. I'm not clear whose card this is the way it's set up, but that could be an issue.

 

HB x

Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Sorry i should also have mentioned that when i took my card out the terms said that no credit score is done and credit agencies are not informed of my card because it is an agreement between me and my company.

 

Im fearing the worst now... i am not aware and never have been that credit scores could be an issue or i would never have been so foolish. I totally admit to thinking "oh it will be fine, its only my company card, it wont matter if its a few days late" i never do that with my personal bills and would never have done that with the company card if i was in any way aware of any potential credit issues

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Hello there and welcome to the forum. You could try putting a call in to ACAS's confidential helpline, number on their website. They should offer you advice as well as us.

 

HB x

 

 

This is very helpful, thank you, i have found their website. I will wait until i get the letter from my employer and the information from my friend regarding the email (ie did it mention GM if the card was used for personal use) and also her information around the GM policy and take it from there.

 

Thanks for all the replies.

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Hi shahil.......... just a thought at this stage. In the absence of any substative allegation over the credit card usage, is there any possibility that you are being investigated over the fact you are on maternity leave? I would be aware of Sex Discrimination if this is a spurious allegation.

 

Are you in an occupation that is substantially female? Are you aware of any previous employee / s that have suffered the same fate? Is it possible that the company use it as a means to extract employees in a manner that would suggest that they are not discriminating?

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Hi there i have also been worried about this. I think i have made it obvious to my boss that i am in no rush to go back and that i will probably most likely take the full year off, so part of me is concerned they could be using this as a way of getting me out.

That being said, i work for a huge company who should know better - so i would hope that they wouldnt take the risk of the scandal!

In addition, i do love my job, i get on great with my management team and i have a wonderful, trustowrthy relationship with them. I am aware i have now brought that trust into question but i had no idea that my using the card for a few silly purchases could be this serious.

I am good at my job and my manager has said he misses me (before all of this) so im at a loss. I hope this is a simple case of them following proceedures but if they are following it to the endth degree then it could be a Gross Misconduct (i have now managed to get my hands on the Gm policy)

 

I have today spoken with the credit card company who confirmed that my company have not been charged and that their individual credit rating would absolutly not be impacted - they actually said in the grand scheme of things, and for the size of my company, that this is such a trivial matter!! So that leads me back to they "why, why why"!!

 

I'd accept a slap on the wrist and apologise a million times for being so silly, and i'd tell them to terminate the card, but i dont know if thats enough.

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sorry about that just saying what you can read. My wife suffered a similar fate over management wanting one thing and pursuing her until they got it. You have to want to fight them with all you have got. It does seem that they have encouraged usage on the card by allowing personal purchases. I would research the areas sidewinder has suggested in anticipation of the worst and then fight it.

 

I am glad I picked up on the maternity matter as it obviously had crossed your mind too.

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On the maternity aspect, and the fact that other employees have merely been sent (at this stage) an email reminding them of company policy, this could well be a powerful defence in the event that you are disciplined for GM on grounds of personal use. Not only the fact that others would have received a lesser sanction than you, but also that you have been treated more harshly and happen to be female. It does not seem at present as though they are treating everybody equally.

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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Thank you sidewinder. I am wondering.. the others who recieved an email may only have used the card for personal use so that means the breached 1 of the conditions whereas i have breached 3 by using the card for personal use, not having a direct debit in place, and not paying it on time. Now, i must stress that i have not had a direct debit in place since 2007 and no one has ever suggested that the consequences of this could lead to GM - although it is mentioned in the GM policy my manger has never said anything to me, the accounts department have never been in touch and the credit card company themselves have been taking the payment over the phone every single month without saying... "the terms of your card through your company stipulate you need to have a dd set up, shall i do this for you now??"

 

My question is... is it fair for me to argue that irrespective of whether my colleauges had less breaches than me.. had a ddm set up or were only late in 1 or 2 payments that they still had a breach. So surely the company cant say "they used it for personal use but they were also on time with the payments, or they had a ddm in place, or they were only late in 1 / 2 payments??" Its either acceptable or its not!

 

Is it fair to argue that if i were still at work and not off on mat leave then this would never have came to light and i would have continued managing the card in the same way because it had never ever been picked up before??

 

This all started a couple of weeks ago when i was on holiday and HR emailed to say it had come to light i didnt have a ddm set up because i had forgotten to pay the bill and the credit card company then notified my company. I then emailed back apologising, my manager, and HIS manager were both copied in. In the email i said i was sorry and embarrased that i forgot to pay the bill but it had not been sorted. Both my manager and his manager emailed back saying "dont worry, thanks for sorting this out so quickly, its easily done". They didnt say "PS - listen your on mat leave what or earth are you using your card for??" and they didnt say "do you know how serious this is" nor did the lady from HR - she just said "if you dont sort this out your card will be cancelled".

 

So i really feel that my company have not doen enough to highlight consequences to me - if i had known i would never have taken the risk. I am at my wits end, i havent slept properly for 2 whole nights and my whole schedule at home is up in the air because im sitting by the computer all day researching what could happen to me.

 

I dont know what to do and i really dont feel brave enough to go into this meeting because im worried ill break down and not get my points accross - i dont know what to do.

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I suggest that you print copies of;

1. The email saying that the lack of ddm had come to light,

2. Your email response,

3. Their "dont worry, thanks for sorting this out so quickly, its easily done" emails,

and take them with you to present at the meeting.

 

It's sometimes very difficult to remember everything that you want to say in a stressful situation. So, it would probably be a good idea to prepare something in writing to hand in at the meeting so be on the safe side.

If nothing else you could use this document to get answers to your questions.

 

I would be asking:

Why, in light of the #3 emails, they are taking this further?

Others were recently sent a reminder not to use the card for personal use and this reminder was not sent to you. You could ask whether this was because you were absent from the workplace on maternity leave?

Has every other employees use of their card been investigated?

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It might be best to add the questions to the letter.

 

What the questions are really asking is, are you discriminating against me on the grounds of sex/maternity?

 

If your employer's HR are on the ball they may decide that they don't want to risk a potential sex discrimination claim and drop the current procedings.

Otherwise the answers, or lack of answers, to your documented questions may be useful to you later.

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I will definelty be pointing out that this only came to light because i am off on maternity - and i dont think for a minute that my collegue were making personal purchases during office hours!!! So its either acceptable or its not acceptable to use the card for personal purchases... they cant make an example of me becauseim on mat leave.

 

The thing is im so angry and upset and i am crying constantly at the minute, i dont know how i can get all this accross at the meeting in a professional and constructive manner!

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I don't think you should be rhetorical about shopping in office hours. I think you should ask directly if management have investigated the usage of others for abuse ie shopping when at work. You have to shove it in their faces so to speak the more obvious the better.

 

You need someone in their with you that you can count on. Work colleagues rarely are a good idea, have you someone that can assist you? Failing all what about your husband?

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The thing is im so angry and upset and i am crying constantly at the minute, i dont know how i can get all this accross at the meeting in a professional and constructive manner!

 

This is perfectly understandable.

The answer is to prepare everything in writing:

Copies of all relevant emails.

Copies of any relevant policies or agreements.

Your questions.

A statement outlining your side of the story, including the effect that this process is having on you.

 

You could refer to this bundle during the meeting, then hand in a copy at the end and ask them to sign your copies as a receipt.

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I don't think you should be rhetorical about shopping in office hours. I think you should ask directly if management have investigated the usage of others for abuse ie shopping when at work. You have to shove it in their faces so to speak the more obvious the better.

 

You need someone in their with you that you can count on. Work colleagues rarely are a good idea, have you someone that can assist you? Failing all what about your husband?

 

I would love for my husband to be there but it needs to be someone from the company :-(

 

Thanks for all this, ive spent the day pulling it all together. Having read line for line the GM policy i know they can sack me if they really want to - but there is also a statement in there which says they can use their discretion.... so it could go either way!

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