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Big Companies Need HR Departments to Match

Big companies are expected to have substantial and sophisticated human resources departments to match their stature. An Employment Tribunal (ET) made that point in upholding a call centre worker’s unfair dismissal complaint.

The worker, who was employed by an insurance company, was accused of making unauthorised personal calls whilst on duty, deliberately avoiding customer calls that he was trained to handle by transferring them to other departments, and failing to follow the company’s correct quoting procedure with a view to personal financial gain. Following a disciplinary hearing, he was dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct and his internal appeal against that decision failed.

Ruling on his case, the ET accepted that those involved in the disciplinary process held a genuine belief that he was guilty of the misconduct alleged. However, the company had failed to discharge the burden of showing that their belief was reasonable and based on a reasonable investigation.

The ET noted that elements of the disciplinary process lacked the clear structure and sophistication of communication to be expected of a company with substantial resources operating in a regulated sector. Given that context, the investigation was not carried out by a person with sufficient experience. There was no requirement to follow every avenue of inquiry but, overall, the investigation lacked focus and depth commensurate with the size of the employer and the seriousness of the allegations.

The man’s dismissal without notice, the ET found, did not in any event fall within the range of reasonable responses open to the company. The company had not shown on the evidence that any failure on his part to follow correct procedures was wilful and for his own financial gain or benefit. His length of service – he had been with the company for 16 years – was also not taken into account as mitigation.

The ET’s ruling entitled the man to 12 weeks’ pay in lieu of notice. Issues concerning the level of his compensation for unfair dismissal would be considered at a further hearing, if not agreed.

Published in
13 April 2022
Last Updated
20 October 2022