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Are Investigation Meetings an Essential Element of a Dismissal Process?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

At a recent CIPD seminar held at our Kettering office we discussed the importance of investigations as part of a disciplinary process…

…The Employment Appeals Tribunal (“EAT”) decision in Radia v Jeffries International was published after the seminar and in the summary findings the failure to conduct an investigation meeting did not render unfair the Claimant’s dismissal from the business.

The Claimant was employed as the Managing Director and had, during his employment, brought a disability discrimination claim against the Respondent. In it’s written judgment in relation to that discrimination claim, the Employment Tribunal (“ET”) did not find the Claimant’s evidence to be credible in some matters covered at that hearing.

On receipt of the ET’s written judgement, the Respondent dismissed the Claimant on grounds it could no longer employ him due to credibility concerns it had as a result of the ET’s credibility findings. The dismissal took place with no investigation meeting having been first held, and the Claimant brought a further claim against the Respondent – this time his claim was for unfair dismissal.

The ET found that the Claimant was fairly dismissed despite this omission in the process. The EAT agreed with the ET’s decision that, as far as the lack of investigation was concerned, this in itself did not render the dismissal unfair. However, the EAT did go on to find that the omission of the appeal stage in this instance rendered the dismissal unfair overall.

Does this finding mean that employers can skip the investigation meeting without fear of an unfair dismissal claim?

Although, at first sight you can be forgiven for thinking the answer is “yes”, I believe that any employer will do this at its peril.

Why?  

Firstly there was an investigation, even though it was extremely brief, which consisted of the Respondent’s consideration of the written judgment in the disability discrimination claim.

Secondly, and crucially, it was accepted that the Claimant was given the opportunity to respond to the ET’s written judgment at the disciplinary hearing and that the Claimant commented at length about it. Further, subsequent to the disciplinary hearing, the Respondent considered additional relevant documentation which the Claimant drew to its attention at the disciplinary hearing.

These actions are each constituent parts of a good investigation. Due to the industry in which the Claimant and Respondent operated (namely investment banking and therefore FCA regulated), the fact these steps did not form part of a formal investigation prior to the disciplinary hearing did not, in this instance, render the process unfair.

In conclusion, and despite the headline in Radia, the case reinforces the advice that any management process which requires a finding to be made (whether as a disciplinary, grievance or harassment process) should have at its heart a fair and considered investigation.

Any investigation needs to be conducted in a timely manner by the right person for the job and allows for meetings where proper responses can be given.

If you need any Employment advice please contact our Specialist Team.

Jennie Jahina

Posted:

Jennie Jahina

Partner

Jennie is a Partner and Head of the Employment team.  A member of the Employment Lawyers Association, Jennie has 21 years’ experience and is an accredited CEDR Mediator. She acts for private sector organisations ranging from SMEs to multi-national companies and public sector organisations.