Holmes & Hills’ team of Employment Law solicitors discuss disciplinary policies and procedures following a recent case that went against the employer.
A recent Employment Tribunal case provides a reminder of the importance of employers having clear disciplinary policies and carrying out full and thorough investigations even in apparently “straightforward” cases.
Colin Kane was seen by a colleague attending a social club when he was absent on sick leave. When contacted by telephone by a manager Mr Kane said he had been in bed all day with a bad chest. There was later confusion surrounding the date of the phone call. Mr Kane later admitted being at the club on both days.
The employer wrote to Mr Kane inviting him to a disciplinary meeting and stating that he was accused of breaching the employer’s disciplinary rules, although it was noted by the Tribunal that no witness statements supporting the employer’s case (that Mr Kane had been at the club) were included with the letter.
Following a disciplinary meeting, Mr Kane was dismissed. His appeal against dismissal (based partly on the grounds that other employees had visited the club and not been disciplined) was rejected.
In what might be viewed as an unusual decision, the Employment Tribunal found in favour of Mr Kane and ruled that he had been unfairly dismissed.
Points noted by the Tribunal are a sober reminder to employers of the need to follow strict procedures when conducting disciplinaries and not to be tempted to relax procedures in apparently “obvious” cases. Points of note:
The overriding lesson for employers is that where a genuine belief is held that an employee is guilty of misconduct, that belief must be based on “reasonable grounds”; an employer must be able to produce evidence later which supports their findings and the genuine belief held.
Employers are reminded that they should regularly review their policies and procedures, including in relation to disciplinary and dismissal.