24 July 2014

Recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (UKEAT) cases again highlight the importance of ensuring that a reasonable investigation is carried out, to ensure that decisions affecting workers’ employment are based on consideration of sufficient information.

South Lanarkshire Council v Miller Burns, Kennedy and Martin, UKEATS/0040/12/BI shows a series of failings on the part of the Council in terms of a thorough and reasonable investigation at the disciplinary stage, including: that a significant spreadsheet was ignored; relevant CCTV was also ignored; interviews were not conducted with notable individuals, together with criticism that petitioners should not have been allowed to remain anonymous. The flawed investigation was addressed by a detailed Appeal process and the EAT held that there was sufficient material to find the first and second claimants guilty of misconduct. However, the investigation into the third claimant was found to be inadequate and the EAT held that his dismissal was unfair.

Whittington Hospitals NHS Trust v Nduka UKEAT/0361/13/JOJ appeal against a finding of unfair dismissal offers a clear and helpful outline of the benchmark for employers in cases with potential for claims of unfair dismissal (paragraph 12), as follows:

a) Was there a genuine belief in misconduct?
b) Were there reasonable grounds for that belief?
c) Was there a fair investigation and procedure?
d) Was dismissal a reasonable sanction open to a reasonable employer?

A reasonable investigation can help to prevent costly and damaging litigation.

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