15 March 2013: You may have read about the fate of Paul Marshallsea in the press this week. Having wrestled with a shark to save two children while on holiday in Australia, he was sacked by the charity he worked for when he got back because he was supposed to be on stress related sick leave.
According to the Independent, Mr Marshallsea claims he and his wife went on holiday on the advice of his GP. Both he and his wife were employed by the same charity and were both on sick leave at the time.
Dismissing him, the charity wrote “Whilst unfit to work, you were well enough to travel to Australia and, according to recent news footage of yourself in Queensland, you allegedly grabbed a shark by the tail and narrowly missed being bitten by quickly jumping out of the way; the photographs and footage appearing in newspapers and television broadcasts.”
It seems that Mr Marshallsea had less than two years’ service and he did not have the right not to be unfairly dismissed. There is no particular reason why someone signed off with stress should remain at home, and indeed it is possible that taking a break away from home could help Mr Marshallsea overcome that stress. However a trip to Australia is surely something you plan well in advance, and the fact that his wife was signed off sick at the same time may not be a coincidence.
There may well be grounds for the charity to suspect that Mr Marshallsea falsified his sick leave in order head off Down Under. However an employer should carry out a reasonable investigation to ascertain this, which might include asking him for proof of exactly when he booked his holiday, or checking his Facebook page. Falsifying sick leave is fraudulent and can justify summary dismissal for gross misconduct if it is upheld.
Apparently Mr Marshallsea has commented “Where do I now get a job? There’s not much call for shark wrestlers in Merthyr Tydfil.” Maybe it’s time to think about emigrating …..