M&S boss denies impossible food check deadline in dismissal case

The manager of a Marks & Spencer food store has denied claims by a former employee that staff were being given impossible deadlines by which to check food expiry dates.

Killarney store manager Paul Daly said checking expiry dates on food was “not rocket science” — staff were trained to look at the product and check the date, and most staff managed to check their allocated number of fresh and chilled food sections in the two-hour time frame.

The two-hour time frame was not strict, “the core requirement” was to check items, the manager also said.

Sean Daly, of Cahernane Meadows, Killarney, claims he was unfairly dismissed by the store and says it is “physically impossible” to check the date of expiry of food in the time scale allotted. He said staff were “bullied” into signing off on having checked food’s expiry dates when they had not.

At one point, Mr Daly wrote directly to the chairman of M&S, Stuart Rose, claiming to have found food items on sale which were out of date — in one case weeks out of date.

A former maths teacher, Mr Daly began work in the general merchandise section of the Killarney M&S in March 2008, and in September 2009 moved to the food hall. His pay was €473.31 gross per week.

His employment was ended in February 2011, and he is seeking reinstatement.

Failing to complete his checks, and spoken to about taking too long to complete tasks, Mr Daly was retrained five times, and was also given a series of warnings for being too slow. The warning level was raised after €2,515 of food was destroyed when he placed the food in a cold room rather than a freezer.

He told management it was humiliating and embarrassing to be asked to retrain so often, but he would accept further training, yesterday’s tribunal heard.

He also claimed that he began to be regarded by other staff as a troublemaker and colleagues began to be wary of talking to him.

No other member of staff complained to him of being bullied, the manager said.

Asked about the former employee’s claims that he had found items that were out of date being offered for sale, Mr Daly the manager said: “He is clearly doing his job if he finds items that are out of date. That is what he is charged to do.”

Checking the date of food was extremely important and the company offered specific training, the tribunal was told.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing into his case which restarted in Killarney yesterday is expected to run for at least three days. Some 15 witnesses are to be called. M&S are expected to vigorously deny Mr Daly’s claims.

The case opened in February 2013 but did not resume in September as a member of the hearing panel fell ill.


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