Bread with holes

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An employment tribunal has ruled that a head baker was unfairly dismissed by his Dorset-based employers, awarding him more than £15,000.

Leakers Bakery in Bridport sacked Artur Piaszczynski in 2021 after claiming he had continued to produce bread described as “inconsistent and at times poor to the extent that reputation and business was affected”.

Following complaints from several customers about Piaszczynski’s bread, his boss Caroline Parkins left him a series of written notes over the course of a year, the tribunal heard.

“I have asked you many, many times to make sure there are no holes in the middle of the loaf of bread,” one note read. “I have explained that our customers do not like to have holes in the middle when they are trying to make a sandwich or butter toast. They get irritated by it and there is a chance they will stop buying our bread.”

Judge Livesey ruled these warnings were not effective as a means of communicating, given that Piaszczynski had a poor grasp of English. Leakers had provided him a Polish interpreter during a meeting just before Christmas 2021, which ended in his dismissal.

The judge said Parkins displayed “no sense of having understood what might have amounted to good industrial practice in such circumstances”. She had not done enough to make Piaszczynski aware he had been issued with warnings, had not given him any advance notice of his dismissal, the judge noted. The company had also failed to provide Piaszczynski specific performance targets, and there had been no discussion around addressing problems through training.

During the tribunal, Piaszczynski described baking as “an art not a science”, admitting that not all of his bread batches would have been or could have been perfect. Parkins countered that, although some batches would differ to some extent, “good, saleable bread did not have large holes in it and/or fall over because it was so soft”.

Piaszczynski started working for Leakers in 2015, subsequently becoming head baker and was being paid £19 per hour at the end of his employment.

The Bridport firm, which described itself as an artisan bakery with a long history of providing quality bread on its Facebook page, announced its decision to close in October last year. “Sadly the current climate of escalating costs puts us in a position of uncertainty,” said its final post. “In tandem with rising costs of raw ingredients, our energy costs particularly are unsustainable.”