A woman sits alone

Workplace rights executive fired for sexual harassment

An ACAS senior executive who was fired for sexual harassment has been found to have been unfairly dismissed after the body, which is a leading authority on workplace behaviour, failed to follow its own rules during the dismissal procedure. 

However, a judge has ruled that the Deputy Chief Conciliator for ACAS, John Woods, will not receive any compensation, stating that if the procedure had been followed correctly, he would still have been dismissed for gross misconduct - defined as when there is a very serious breach of rules or policies, and entitles the employer to dismiss the employee for a first offence without notice.

The judgment detailed how a number of women working for the Government-funded body had accused Woods, who had worked for the organisation for 39 years, of conduct ranging from flirtation to “inappropriate comments and behaviour” dating back five years. The Employment Tribunal judgment reveals how this included sending a “barrage” of inappropriate sexual messages to a junior staff member, inviting a woman to his hotel for sex during a residential training course, and leaving a pair of knickers on another female colleague’s desk.

Woods, who in his senior position was required to conduct himself in a manner that set an example to other staff, is reported to have complained the #MeToo movement, which is a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment, had “changed the rules” and “lowered the bar for sexual harassment”.

Employment Judge David Khan said Mr Woods “showed no insight or remorse”.

An ACAS spokesman said:

“Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work and ACAS does not tolerate any form of bullying, harassment, discrimination or inappropriate behaviour. We take any allegation of misconduct and sexual harassment very seriously and we dismissed the person concerned following a disciplinary process. We note the Tribunal’s judgment and are learning from this case to improve our disciplinary procedures.”