A hotel night porter was found to be sleeping on the job and after what was described as an 'investigation meeting', he was dismissed. The employer based the dismissal on an allegation of misconduct. The employee brought a claim for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld the employee's claim for unfair dismissal. A fair dismissal requires 'as much investigation into the matter as was reasonable in all circumstances of the case'.
The EAT confirmed that separate investigation and disciplinary hearings are not required in every case by right and that an employee does not have an automatic right to separate meetings. The EAT confirmed that on the facts of the case, there had been a lack of proper investigation and a lack of opportunity for the employee to prepare for a disciplinary hearing which rendered the dismissal procedurally unfair.
This is another example of a situation where an employee may have been unfairly dismissed had the employer followed the proper procedure. What is clear from the case is that there should be a properly conducted, prompt investigation before any disciplinary action. A failure to investigate will, in the vast majority of cases, be unfair.
Employers are not expected to hold a separate investigation meeting as of right; but an employee must be made fully aware of the allegations that they face in advance of any meeting. Employers should review their company policies and ensure that all relevant managers and staff are properly trained on the application of those policies. If a company policy states that an employee has the right to a separate investigation meeting, generally that meeting should be held.
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