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London bus driver who left bus with engine running to relive himself and grab coffee is fired

London buses travel along Whitehall in Westminster in London.
Reuters/HANNAH MCKAY

In an interesting incident, a London bus driver lost his job after leaving the public vehicle full of passengers to relieve himself and get a coffee.

The incident occurred in March 2020 during which the driver Ian Brown was already under caution for his poor attendance in his five-year job tenure.

Brown took his employer, Arriva London North to a tribunal for unfair dismissal after the incidents. But employment judges rejected the case in a ruling published on Tuesday.

The tribunal heard how Brown was driving Route 243 from Waterloo to Wood Green when the incident occurred. It caused the bus service to run behind schedule.

The day of the incident—March 13, 2020, the driver stopped the vehicle in between the route and exited to relieve himself and grab a coffee. However, he left the bus full of passengers with the engine switched on and unsecured on the stand. He arrived late as he went to the “cafĂ© to use the toilet and collect a hot drink.”

Brown had several cautions throughout his five years at the company including for being late as well as “abusive language.” That day he left seven minutes later than he was due to.

During the hearing, the tribunal saw the CCTV footage from the bus. The footage played during the hearing showed Brown reading a letter he was sent inviting him to a disciplinary meeting while the bus was already in motion. Just a few seconds later, he also jumped a red light, despite it turning red three seconds before the bus reached the stop line. He denied that he was reading the letter at the time and said he felt had passed the point of “no return” with the red light.

The tribunal heard that when Brown was confronted about the lateness, he said: “It is against my contract. I’m not driving this bus for the rest of the day.”

He was told that it would be a self-suspension. “I’m not suspending myself, you are bullying me and I’m not fit to drive. You can collect the bus from Seven Sisters,” he replied.

After the self-suspension, a disciplinary meeting in August dismissed him for unsatisfactory attendance over a rolling 12-month period, and poor driving standards in March.

Brown told his bosses at the bus company that he was being bullied and he should be paid while he was under suspension.

“Controllers’ constant bullying and harassment while on duty goes unnoticed. Are you saying I have no rights to a toilet break or to be paid while off sick…. This is not a self-suspension but stress under duress,” he said.

The driver appealed against the dismissal, but it was rejected in October. He then took the bus company to the tribunal alleging unfairness in the dismissal process.

However, Employment Judge Rebecca Tuck ruled that she was satisfied with the decision. “I am satisfied that dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses. In any event, I would have been satisfied that any procedural defects would have made no difference to the final outcome,” she added.

She said, “on 13 March 2020 the claimant was driving a double decker bus on route 243. He arrived late to take over the bus – at around 2.17 pm then left it unsecured at a bus stand, with the engine running and passengers on board, while he went to the cafĂ© to use the toilet and collect a hot drink, not leaving the stand until 2.21pm.”

Other claims by Brown such as breach of contract and unlawful deduction from wages were also thrown out by the tribunal.

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